Monday, January 17, 2011

UAW's King: Union's Survival at Stake

January 17, 2011

UAW's King: Union's survival at stake

Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — United Auto Workers President Bob King told members tonight the union's very survival is at stake in its efforts to organize foreign workers — and said it has limited options in contract talks with Detroit's Big Three.

"If we don't organize these transnationals, I don't think there's a long term future for the UAW — I really don't," King told more than 1,000 members and retirees at the opening of a four-day political action conference in Washington.

The Detroit union has asked foreign automakers to agree to a set of principles to allow for what it calls "fair bargaining" and King says the union plans to pick a first target within 90 days. He said the foreign automakers are out to "destroy the union."

So far no foreign automakers have agreed to do so and the UAW has been unable to organize any of the foreign auto plants over the last three decades.

In a spirited hour-long speech here, King said the union -- which has seen membership fall from a high of 1.53 million members in 1979 to under 400,000 -- has its very survival at stake in organizing foreign auto plants.

"What we're really committed to is creating the UAW of the '40s and '50s and '60s. The UAW of those days was an activist union -- that members were mobilized all the time," King said. "It wasn't legislation that built the UAW. It was workers coming together."

He ramped up the rhetoric with foreign companies -- and said the union had assembled a list of the 50 largest dealers of one foreign company as it prepares protests if no talks are held.

"They don't fear us and they think they can't get away with it," he said of the foreign automakers.

The union's options are dramatically limited with Detroit's Big Three -- because previously the union essentially had "virtual pattern bargaining" as foreign automakers would match what the UAW won, King said.

"Because they didn't want us to succeed to be able to succeed in our organizing drives, whatever we did the Big 3, they would run out and give it to workers before we got there to keep us out -- in some cases even more," King said.

King said that ended about six or seven years ago when the foreign automakers began opening in the deeper South and paying less "in more economically depressed areas in a lot of really desperate people that really need jobs."

But that clout has gone, King said.

"Here's the terrible position we're in autos," King said. "Because we've fallen so far in the percent of workers represented by the UAW in autos" the union can't demand big increases because of non union competitors. "So if we go in, we dramatically raise fixed costs for Ford, General Motors or Chrysler, we're shooting ourselves in the foot. … We don't want to disadvantage the (Detroit 3) companies."

He also said a top priority is getting President Barack Obama re-elected in 2012 -- and said the president had been friendly to unions. He called on members to back Democrats -- and said workers would not have been successful in the Flint sit-down strike in 1936-37 if Michigan had had a Republican governor.

More than 1,000 UAW workers and retirees are attending the conference, meeting with members of Congress and lobbying on a number of issues. King called on members to engage in "direct action" in an effort to return the union to its glory days and called for supporting Democrats.

1 comment:

hdrmax said...

The only thing execs want to do is pay us 50 cents an hour, but that might be too much wages because they are always cutting costs and out sourcing.