UAW pickets Hyundai dealers in Korean worker protest, Union says effort not linked to U.S. organizing campaign

UAW pickets Hyundai dealers in Korean worker protest
Union says effort not linked to U.S. organizing campaign

Automotive News | November 30, 2011 – 12:36 pm EST
UPDATED: 11/30/11 4:15 pm ET

DETROIT (Bloomberg) — The UAW’s protest at more than 80 U.S. Hyundai Motor Co. dealerships today is to show support for Korean workers, not to target the automaker’s U.S. employees for a membership drive, a union spokeswoman said.

“This has nothing to do with the domestic organizing campaign,” Michele Martin, a UAW spokeswoman, said in an interview. “Hyundai is not the target.”

UAW President Bob King has said he planned to organize the U.S. operations of one international automaker this year. King said in March that restoring the union’s bargaining clout depends on organizing non-union factories of automakers such as Hyundai and Toyota Motor Corp. It now appears the UAW won’t achieve that goal this year, Martin said.

“At this point, our hope is to make a decision about who we’re going to target by the end of the year,” Martin said. “But obviously, we won’t have the organizing campaign completed by the end of the year.”

In an advisory, the UAW said it was holding a “global day of action” at Hyundai dealerships today from noon to 1 p.m. local time.

“The Korean Metal Workers Union is being joined by unions around the world in a global day of action in support of a worker fired for reporting sexual harassment at a Hyundai subcontractor,” the advisory said.

Regional UAW representatives have been training union members on how to conduct informational picket campaigns at the showrooms of international automakers, Martin said. The union has not yet said which dealers will be targeted for the campaign, though UAW Vice President Joe Ashton said Nov. 21, “we’re very close to doing that.”

The UAW’s membership increased last year by 6 percent to 376,612, according to a March 31 filing with the U.S. Labor Department. After its first annual membership gain in six years, the UAW would have to almost quadruple in size to return to its 1979 peak of more than 1.5 million members.

Philip Nussel contributed to this report.

PRESS RELEASE: American autoworkers call for reinstatement of Hyundai worker in South Korea

Korean auto union calls on UAW and other unions for global dealership action

DETROIT – Today UAW members across the United States showed their solidarity at Hyundai Motor Co. dealerships to demand the reinstatement of Ms. Park, a contract (“temp”) worker for a subcontractor at Hyundai’s Asan facility in South Korea who was terminated for reporting sexual harassment.

Holding banners that read, “Stop Sex Discrimination at Hyundai” and “Reinstate Ms. Park,” UAW members from Los Angeles to New York, at more than 75 different dealerships, informed American auto buyers about an injustice to an autoworker on the other side of the globe.

“Though we may work for different companies and in different countries, as workers, we support each other’s struggles and know that one of the best ways to hold our employers accountable is through consumer action at dealerships,” said Mike O’Rourke, an 33-year employee and president of UAW Local 1853 at General Motors’ Manufacturing Facility in Spring Hill, Tenn.

The Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU) called upon autoworkers and their unions to participate in the Global Day of Action by standing in front of Hyundai dealerships in their home countries and demanding that the company direct its subcontractor to reinstate Ms. Park and hold the offender responsible. With the help of the KMWU, Ms. Park filed a complaint of sexual harassment with the National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea in 2010. In response, Hyundai’s subcontractor fired Ms. Park for “harming the company’s reputation.”

The commission ruled in favor of Ms. Park, finding that the retaliatory discharge was illegal. It also ordered the company to pay damages and hold the perpetrator responsible. When Hyundai’s subcontractor refused to comply with the commission’s ruling, Ms. Park began a demonstration in the capital, where she has been holding vigil since June 22, 2011.

“The UAW has embraced a global vision of social justice and will mobilize its membership to defend labor rights here and in other parts of the world,” said UAW President Bob King.

“We stand in solidarity with our sister in Korea, the KMWU and with workers’ movements which challenge employers who try to silence workers who have the courage to challenge workplace injustice,” added King.

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