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UAW’s King: Stronger union on way

UAW’s King: Stronger union on way

Targeted companies will be asked to agree to union principles

BY BRENT SNAVELY
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

 

 

 

TRAVERSE CITY — UAW President Bob King said today that the UAW has a vision for the future that is very different from its past because it recognizes the need to work with management as partners rather than adversaries, but he also outlined a plan to put pressure on non-unionized companies to accept unions.

 

In the last century, King said, the UAW sought to improve the salary and benefits of its workers in an automotive industry dominated by domestic automakers.

Today’s UAW, King said, recognizes that there are at least seven top automakers in the U.S. and that it must work with employers to improve the quality of the industry’s cars and trucks.

King said the UAW isn’t abandoning its core belief that unions protect workers and should work toward improving social justice for everyone, but said the strategies the union uses to achieve those goals have changed.

“A more visionary and stronger 21st-Century UAW is being born,” King said during a speech today at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.

While King stressed that the UAW views corporations and management as possible partners, he also said the UAW has drafted a set of principles called the UAW Principles for Fair Union Elections that it plans to ask non-unionized employers to sign.

The UAW principles would ban any threats or pressure by either the union or management as workers consider whether to form a union.

“If a company agrees to adopt the UAW principles, and then abides by these principles, we will respect the decision of their workers whether they vote to join the union or not,” King said.

King declined to identify the companies the UAW intends to target. He said the UAW has a board meeting scheduled for later this month and plans to iron out details then.

“We will present them to the executives within the industry who are not currently unionized. We will ask them to sign on to these principles,” King said. “If a company agrees to adopt the UAW Principles, and then abides by these principles, we will respect the decision of their workers whether they vote to join the union or not.”

The UAW has been putting pressure on Toyota for its decision to end production of the Corolla at its plant in Fremont, Calif. The plant, called New United Motor Manufacturing, or Nummi, was a joint venture with General Motors.

The decision to develop and propose a set of principles and present them to non-unionized corporations is necessary because of weak labor laws, King said.

The UAW supports the Employee Free Choice Act, which is proposed legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions. But the legislation has faced strong opposition in Congress.

“We will not passively sit and wait for its passage,” King said. “We will take direct action now in every way we can to protect all workers in exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Over the past several years, King said the UAW has proved that it is willing to work with corporations to reduce costs and improve productivity.

King said the UAW has agreed to contracts in recent years that have cut the average salary of its members by $7,000 to $30,000 and said the restructuring of the U.S. automotive industry caused the loss of 200,000 jobs.

“The UAW of the 21st Century is a force for innovation,” King said. “We are committed to the success of our employers of our partners.”

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