King sees less adversarial UAW

King sees less adversarial UAW

But companies must assure free elections

Automotive News | August 3, 2010 – 6:46 pm EST


New UAW President Bob King sees his union being more attuned to global business issues and less adversarial in the 21st century. But he’s just as ready as ever to fight companies that obstruct free labor elections.

In the first appearance by a UAW president here in more than a decade, King said sacrifices and suggestions by hourly workers helped the Detroit 3 through the industry crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Workers made concessions — as much as $7,000 to $30,000 a year in wages alone — to save the companies, King said. What’s more, the automakers’ comeback rests on a foundation of improved quality and productivity that hourly workers have been instrumental in promoting and putting into practice, he said.

"When it became necessary for the companies to consolidate, we took a strong proactive role in making sure that quality did not suffer from the work force reductions and churning," King said.

Woe to the transplant automakers and others, though, who try to interfere with the UAW’s efforts to organize their factories through fair and free elections, King said.

King said the UAW is developing a set of written principles for free union elections that it first will ask the transplants to sign, then take to other companies inside and outside the industry that the UAW is looking to organize.

King said the principles would call on the companies to agree to equal access by the UAW to workers and prohibitions against using derogatory statements or threats, by either side, during an organizing campaign.

King said companies that are organized will get a partner in the UAW to improve quality and productivity. Those that won’t sign the pledge and that engage in intimidating behavior will get a sworn enemy.

"If companies choose not to respect the rights of American workers — whether those companies are American or foreign-owned — then the UAW will use every resource at its disposal to convince those companies to abide by our democracy," he said.

King conceded that the UAW has not always been company- and consumer-friendly. As little as 10 years ago, the UAW hindered factory flexibility with work rules and a Jobs Bank that, he said, falsely promised job security and failed to deliver.

But that has changed radically, King said. "The 20th-century UAW joined with the companies in a mind-set that it was the company’s job to worry about profits and the union’s job to worry about getting the workers their fair share," he said. "The 21st-century UAW embraces as our own the mission of producing the highest quality, best value products for our customers."

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