UAW launches bid to organize Tesla and “the entire non-union auto sector” in the US

UAW launches bid to organize Tesla and “the entire non-union auto sector” in the US

UAW's Fain speaks with Biden in attendance in Michigan

UAW President Sean Fine speaks as US President Joe Biden (not pictured) joins striking members of the UAW on the picket line outside General Motors’ Willow Run distribution center in Belleville, Wayne County. Michigan, USA, September 26, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hochstein/File Photo acquires licensing rights

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers union said on Wednesday it will launch a first-of-its-kind campaign to publicly organize the entire non-union auto sector in the United States after winning new contracts with the Detroit Three automakers.

The Detroit-based UAW said workers at 13 non-union automakers announced simultaneous campaigns across the country to join the union, including at Tesla (TSLA.O), Toyota (7203.T), Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), Hyundai (005380.T). KS), Rivian (RIVN.O), Nissan (7201.T), BMW (BMWG.DE), and Mercedes-Benz (MBGn.DE).

These automakers employ nearly 150,000 workers at U.S. assembly plants, roughly the same number as the three Detroit companies with which the UAW has signed new labor agreements, the union said.

“To all the auto workers who work without union benefits, it’s your turn now,” UAW President Sean Fine said in a video posted on a website urging auto workers to sign e-cards seeking union representation.

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

The UAW’s deals with General Motors (GM.N), Ford Motor (FN) and Stellantis (STLAM.MI) included a 25% increase in base wages through 2028, cutting the time needed to reach top pay to three years from eight years. – Increase the salaries of temporary workers by 150% and make them permanent employees.

The UAW detailed its organizational strategy. The union said that if 30% of workers at a non-union plant signed cards seeking to join, it would announce it publicly. If 50% of workers seek to join, the UAW will hold a rally with Fain to promote the effort. At 70% and with an organizing committee in place, the UAW will seek recognition or demand a vote on union representation.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, when asked about the UAW effort at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit on Wednesday, said, “I don’t agree with the idea of ​​unions.” If Tesla joins the union, “it will be because we deserve it and we’ve failed in some way,” he said.

Tesla is the world’s largest electric car maker by market capitalization.

Other automakers targeted by the UAW include Honda (7267.T), Subaru (9778.T), Mazda (7261.T), Lucid (LCID.O) and Volvo Cars.

Honda has been cool to the idea of ​​union representation at its U.S. plants.

“We do not believe that a third party would enhance the excellent hiring experience for our partners, nor would it improve the outstanding record of success and employment stability that Honda manufacturers in America have achieved,” she said in a statement.

A Subaru spokesman said the Japanese automaker “has consistently demonstrated its commitment to proactively doing the right thing for the benefit of its partners.”

Officials at Toyota, Rivian and Volkswagen declined to comment, and the other automakers could not immediately be reached.

The UAW’s efforts with non-union automakers mirror the approach it took with the Detroit Three, where the union simultaneously negotiated with the three to reach an agreement after a six-week strike.

The push comes as several foreign automakers have announced significant pay improvements and other compensation in response to UAW contracts in a move seen by many analysts and industry officials as an effort to keep the UAW out of their plants.

US President Joe Biden this month backed the UAW in its quest to unite other automakers. “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.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has sought unsuccessfully for decades to regulate auto plants run by foreign automakers. Efforts to organize Nissan’s plants in Mississippi and Tennessee failed by wide margins, and two attempts to organize Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, failed by an even closer margin.

Harley Chaiken, a labor professor at the University of California, Berkeley, acknowledged the UAW’s past failures, but said the environment is more positive now with strong deals with the Detroit Three, a more positive view of the union by the broader public and White House support.

“This is the right moment to try that, but it will be very difficult because companies have raised wages to reduce the possibility of this happening, and they will resist that across the board very strongly,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, but if there’s ever a moment to seize, it’s now.”

The UAW’s new organizing website — UAW.org/join — echoes the group’s criticisms of the Detroit Three automakers during the contract push, including pointing to corporate profits and executive pay.

The site asks Tesla workers to join, saying that CEO Elon Musk is the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $230 billion. American production has doubled since 2020, and Tesla sales are booming. The question is, will Tesla work on this? ?” Workers getting their fair share?

The UAW said one of its strongest campaigns was at Toyota’s assembly complex in Georgetown, Kentucky, where 7,800 workers build the Camry, RAV4 and Lexus ES. Union officials have repeatedly pointed to Toyota as the main target.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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