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UAW to begin massive organising campaign

The US auto workers’ union is looking to expand its membership base following successes at GM, Ford and Stellantis, writes TONY BURKE

FOLLOWING on from its major success in securing much-improved contracts with the US’s Big Three auto manufacturers (GM, Ford and Stellantis), the United Autoworkers union intends to launch simultaneous organising campaigns across the US to organise over 150,000 new members.

UAW says the Big Three dispute has encouraged many workers in non-union plants to join the UAW already.

The companies to be targeted include Tesla, which is in a hardening battle with the Swedish union IF Metall over union organising and collective bargaining and in Germany where the company is refusing to recognise the IG Metall union at its Brandenburg plant.

Other companies to be targeted are Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Rivian, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, Lucid and Volvo.

UAW points out that these companies recognise unions in their home countries and elsewhere but steadfastly refuse to recognise unions in the US.

Bosses have used well-established anti-union tactics and union-busting companies, so even when the majority of workers sign union cards and when the union uses the process for union recognition via the National Labour Relations Board, organisers have been defeated by members voting not to unionise, fearing the threats of job losses, plant closures, political pressure and alleged threats of against workers of demotion, harassment and demotion.

UAW president Shawn Fain said: “To all the auto workers out there working without the benefits of a union, now it’s your turn,” urging auto workers to sign electronic union cards seeking union representation.

“The money is there. The time is right,” he added. “You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay your rent or feed your family while the company makes billions. A better life is out there.”

UAW outlined its tactics: if 30 per cent of workers at a non-union plant sign cards seeking to join, it would make that public. 

If 50 per cent of workers seek to join, UAW would hold a rally with Fain in attendance to support the organising campaign. 

At 70 per cent and with an organising committee in place, the UAW would seek recognition or demand a union representation vote.

The campaign comes as several foreign automakers have announced significant pay and conditions improvements in response to the UAW Big Three campaign — in a move in an effort to keep UAW out of their plants.

US President Joe Biden said he supported UAW to unionise other carmakers. “I want this type of contract for all auto workers and I have a feeling the UAW has a plan for that,” he said at an event with Fain.

In recent times UAW has been unsuccessful in organising sites operated by foreign automakers. Efforts to organise Nissan plants in Mississippi and Tennessee failed after massive anti-union campaigns by US management.  

Two attempts to organise VW’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, failed even through the campaigns were run with help of the German IG Metall union, which embedded its union officials to help.

UAW is making Tesla and Toyota top priorities, Fain said. “Elon Musk who owns Tesla is the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $230 billion. US production has more than doubled since 2020, and Tesla’s sales are booming. The question is, will Tesla workers get their fair share?”

UAW says one of its strongest campaigns will be at Toyota’s Georgetown, plant in Kentucky, which has 7,800 workers making the Camry, RAV4 and Lexus models.

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