U.A.W. Organizing Efforts In 2012.

You may recall the UAW’s latest strategic initiative to increase membership which kicked off in December of 2010. Organize the transplant auto factory workers of America! The union’s campaign against Honda, Toyota, BMW, Hyundai, VW, etc., was supposed to begin in earnest in January, 2011.

This was to be a $60M campaign that included among other actions an “eleven principle plan” and was to be led Richard Bensinger, the former head of the AFL-CIO’s organizing institute and former lead organizer for the SEIU.  The 11 point plan invites employers to endorse “no coercion, intimidation, equal access, non-disparaging, etc. in the spirit of fair elections. Basically, endorse the principals, have an election, and if we win, great, and if we lose we walk away.  Don’t endorse, and we bring our resources to bear against you in a PR war designed to depict you an abuser of human rights.

So, where’s the rhetoric, hand-billing, and unfair labor practice charges?  Bob King, UAW President did say “If we don’t organize the transplants, I don’t think there is a long-term future for the UAW.”  So what happened?

A lack of receptivity on the part of foreign OEMs & suppliers to agree to the UAW’s “Principals for Fair Elections”, and traditional confrontation in the form of Big 3 negotiations is what happened.  Will King target Ford, and then pattern bargain GM & Chrysler around the new Ford National Master Agreement?  Or since the UAW has a stake (ownership) in GM & Chrysler, bargain against himself first, and then take on Ford? What about the tiered wage systems?  Bottom line is that UAW organizing for 2010 will have to take a back seat to Big 3 Negotiations.

King and the UAW will continue keep the organizing ember lit.  Somewhere between wrapping up the Big 3 negotiations and  PAC activity centered on the 2012 elections, the UAW will ratchet up organizing efforts in the South using these types of strategies and tactics:

  • Redeployment of the eleven principles of the fair election campaign with support from German Unions like IG Metall and others who will attempt to influence key German leaders of VW, BMW, Mercedes, and Tier One German suppliers.  Same for Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai & Kia with respect to Japanese and South Korean unions.
  • Deploy the activists and interns of the new UAW Global Organizing Institute which “is committed to developing the next generation of social justice activists and organizers through education and training, non-violent direct action, and community relationship-building.”
  • Drive social activism through groups, such as the Southern Faith, Labor, and Community Alliance.   A key component of the plan will be to build solidarity between the “student activist” and the “worker” as finding a job and then job security will threaten both.
  • Pushing cross-industry worker solidarity towards “middle-class” solidarity.  Simply put, if you have a boss, you are a middle class worker, and should stand with the UAW.
  • Reengagement with the Labor In The Pulpits program in tandem with the Interfaith Worker Justice & AFL-CIO.
  • Reaching out to the unemployed.  Motivated by sense of inclusion and anger; affiliate memberships will produce volunteers, salt & organize companies once landed, and potentially pay “affiliate dues.”
  • Drive to embrace youth through “anti-institution” messaging.  “You can’t trust any big institution focused on money, and we’re not.  We’re focused on you.”  Social media will play a big role here as it will shape a pliable youth who have had little exposure to the “labor cause.”
  • Champion improved education through anger and fear arising from educational downsizing, and reform of state teachers unions by legislators.
  • Make respect and dignity the issues with transplant workers; not pay.  “A Toyota plant is all about intense competition with fellow workers, not teamwork, fear of reporting injury, surveillance, temps, and a creeping cynicism.

The UAW understands they need to become a part of Southern populism; a part of the culture.  More NASCAR, pulpit work as mentioned above, college and high school football, fish fries and BBQ.  You’ll see targeted Facebook & LinkedIn advertising, and to a certain extent Twitter for relationship building. It will be easy to recruit country music and rap artists who are all about sympathizing with work, family, and struggle.

The UAW knows that they need to become a part of the culture, the community, and it can’t wait until Toyota is organized.  They’ll be back soon.  With a number of states pushing back on public unions, and recent rulings at the NLRB, you’d be wise to think about how the UAW or any other union for that matter will be positioning to approach your companies workers.  Think I’m off base; watch the video.  “Ya’ll come see us, ya’ hear.


I’m Jim Tait, and HR 2012 is where I write about, well… HR Stuff and Things For 2012. One of the coolest things about my job is the unique opportunity to speak with and visit HR professionals and leaders across numerous businesses and industries.  I listen, synthesize, and then project to 2012.  I’m not trying to be Ms. Cleo; just trying to think ahead.

When I’m not agitating here, I’m agitating my wife De Ann, our five kids, or the dog.  

I’m also the lucky founder of OPI National Outplacement.  OPI National Outplacement and Career Transition Services is based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and has served companies and individuals in multiple industries since 1999. Specializing in large, complex, project work OPI has supported groups from 2 to 2,000 throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Prior to OPI, I did time with Union Carbide, ABB, and AlliedSignal in various Executive Operations and HR roles.  I can be reached at 865-531-9154.


Posted on May 31, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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