Bob King & UAW Negotiating With VW; Not Big 3?

With the current equity position that the UAW has in two of the Big Three, the impending negotiations are more about Mr. King and company negotiating with foreign auto companies than the B3.   The auto transplants that King wants to organize are watching to see just how contentious…or not bargaining with the UAW will be. While King has conditioned that there will “be no concessions” his organization’s future depends on minimal increases because with big increases there will not be increased membership, and the long-term future of the UAW will be at risk.  Remember:

  • UAW President Bob King came out of the gate in 2011 with his own version of fast and furious, staked his reputation and the union’s future growth on winning votes to represent workers at foreign auto plants.
  • 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.
  • King did say “If we don’t organize the transplants, I don’t think there is a long-term future for the UAW.”

So mid-way through this seminal year; this is the best he can do from an organizing perspective?

  • “The UAW is talking with “a lot of” foreign automakers about representing their U.S. plants’ hourly workers and could see a deal by year-end, top union officials said recently. Really?  The only one they’re speaking with is Volkswagen, and that is only because they have been invited to do so.
  • “To our pleasant surprise a lot of companies have agreed to confidential discussions with us. What they’ll lead to, I don’t know, said King on Tuesday. “Some days I’m worried, some days I’m frustrated. Are we putting too much hope into these discussions? I don’t know, but we’re continuing them and we feel like we’re making some progress,”  King added.  How many are a lot, Bob?  Two?  You might be talking “to” a lot, but talking “with”; not so much.  If you were talking “with” you’d be trumpeting that fact as you have been with VW, and not hanging your hat on “confidential.”

Here’s a more accurate depiction of the VW “organizing” effort.

  • UAW officials met with representatives of Volkswagen to discuss the organization of 1,400 workers at the automaker’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  This meeting followed meetings between UAW President Bob King and top German labor officials, intending to explain the system of labor representation at Volkswagen.  VW, Europe’s largest car-maker, has a long tradition of working with unions, including Germany’s powerful IG Metall.
  • Recently, Gary Casteel, director of the UAW’s southern region, said workers at the Chattanooga plant had reached out to the union, and there had been discussions with VW executives. But he said no official organizing drive was under way.
  • This week UAW secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams While said the union was making “great inroads” in its organizing efforts.   “You’re going to see before the end of the year a campaign or a plant being organized.”  We’ll see Dennis, but are you saying “organized” or a “campaign?”  If it is VW, it’s being handed to you, and you’ll still be dealing with right to work issues in Tennessee.
  • This week, King said “All of these companies have been surprised and impressed by the role we played in the turnaround of the American companies, about the ongoing relationship with the American companies, about the culture we’re building of creative problem solving and really a joint approach,”  Which are “All of these companies Bob?”  You helped turnaround General Motors & Chrysler, or is it more appropriate to give credit to the US taxpayer who bailed them out?

The UAW may in fact not agree to any concessions; however, they’ll not be able to push for much as all these companies that they’re apparently having confidential conversations with will be watching to see what takes place.  Further complicating matters is that King will need to demonstrate to the employees at the transplants that he is able to negotiate enhanced wages and benefits.  Tight rope: what to do?

The UAW will kick-off an organizing effort/campaign “smack-dab” in the middle of these negotiations which will allow for him to attempt to pressure VW into an agreement.  He’ll take it very easy on Chrysler (the target), and be able to say to VW  “look how painless that was.”

Perhaps he’ll be able to prove that he can partner with management and come to a harmonious agreement.  We’ll see.


Posted on July 21, 2011, in Labor Relations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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