March 3, 2024

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UAW initiates drive to organize Toyota, Tesla, Honda, VW and others

The United Auto Workers union has announced a campaign to organize the U.S. factories of Toyota, Tesla, Honda and the country’s other non-union automakers, hoping to dramatically expand its membership after negotiating record contracts with Detroit’s Big Three.

The UAW revealed A.J website Workers in 13 different companies can electronically sign union licensing cards in a first step toward trying to organize their factories.

The UAW faces a tough battle. Its previous efforts to organize automakers have failed, in part because many plants are located in Southern states, where local laws, politics and culture make it difficult for unions to organize.

However, union leaders hope to benefit from the significant wage increases the UAW has won for workers in new contracts with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. These contracts include pay increases of at least 25% over four and a half years, as well as higher company contributions to retirement accounts and more paid time off.

UAW members ratify standard contracts with the Big Three automakers

Thousands of workers at non-union companies have already contacted the UAW and signed cards in recent weeks, encouraged by Detroit Three contracts, the union said. She declined to provide more specific numbers.

in video In announcing the campaign, UAW President Sean Fine made the same arguments he made to the Big Three workers this year when he urged them to strike: Companies are making big profits while workers fall behind, he said.

“You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay the rent or feed your family while the company is making billions,” Fine said. “There’s a better life out there. It starts with you: UAW.

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Several non-union companies, including Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Volkswagen, have given their American workers double-digit pay increases in recent weeks in what analysts described as an apparent attempt to stave off any drive to unionize.

In an emailed statement, Honda said it has built a successful business in the United States over 40 years in part by “maintaining competitive wages and benefits.”

“We do not believe that any third party would enhance the excellent hiring experience for our partners, nor would it improve the outstanding record of success and employment stability that Honda manufacturers in America have achieved,” the statement said.

“Our history reflects that Nissan respects employees’ right to decide who should represent their interests in the workplace,” Nissan said in a statement. “However, we believe our workplace will be stronger without third-party involvement.”

Volkswagen and Rivian declined to comment. Other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment or could not be reached.

The UAW said workers at non-union plants were helping to organize the campaign, which will target 150,000 employees at the companies: BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Rivian, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. . .

The campaign comes amid a growing movement of workplace activism, with workers in a variety of industries striking and demanding better wages and benefits. Many have made big gains this year, including UPS drivers, Hollywood actors and writers, and health care workers.

These victories have sparked public interest in unions, but translating that into new members will not be easy. Union membership has generally declined in recent decades, as the UAW itself shows: the union’s ranks have declined sharply from a peak of about 1.5 million workers in the 1970s, to about 400,000 members today in a variety of industries, including health care and public health. academy. About 150,000 members work in automakers.

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Some of the UAW’s new targets, including Tesla, have worked hard to block unionization efforts in the past. The UAW’s new campaign singles out Tesla founder Elon Musk, saying he is the richest man in the world and oversees a company with booming sales. “The question is: Will Tesla workers get their fair share? It is time for Tesla workers to stand up and fight for more. The Union website said.

Many other automakers have heavily unionized workforces in their home countries and may not be so intent on playing hardball, said Jake Rosenfeld, a sociology professor and labor expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

However, their U.S. factories are located in states that could be hostile to unions, he said.

When the UAW tried to organize Volkswagen facilities in Tennessee, the company maintained a neutral stance toward the campaign, but many local politicians expressed opposition, which helped sway workers against the effort, Rosenfeld said.

In long-union states like Michigan, “you hear story after story about GM workers whose grandfathers were in the union — it’s being passed down,” he said. This history does not exist in the South.

Getting workers to sign union authorization cards is usually the first step in organizing the workforce. Once 30% of eligible workers sign, they have the right by law to call an election to determine whether a workplace wants to unionize. according to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In some cases, employers will voluntarily recognize a union without a vote, once a majority of workers have signed the cards.

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The UAW aims to achieve a high level of card signings in support of its campaign. If the organizing effort reaches the company’s 30 percent threshold, officials said, it will publicly announce a regulatory commission at the automaker and continue to push to hire more workers. The union said that if it reached 50 percent, it would organize a march with Fine and workers at the factory. After 70 percent, the UAW will demand that the company recognize the union. If the company does not do so, the union will ask the NLRB to hold an election.