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UAW organizing campaign seeks to double autoworker membership

Breana Noble, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

The United Auto Workers on Wednesday said its new organizing campaign seeks to double its auto industry membership.

The campaign that the union describes as an "unprecedented" effort targets autoworkers at more than a dozen non-union automakers. That would encompass nearly 150,000 non-union autoworkers. The Detroit-based union has 146,000 members at the Detroit Three and close to 400,000 active members overall.

At uaw.org/join, workers can learn more and sign an authorization card to organize their workplaces at Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Hyundai Motor Co., Tesla Inc., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Subaru Corp., Volkswagen AG, Mazda Motor Corp., Rivian Automotive Inc., Lucid Group Inc. and AB Volvo.

Once 30% of workers at a single plant sign an authorization card, an organizing committee of autoworkers at the plant would be announced publicly, according to a union flier. That's the threshold that is needed for a National Labor Relation Board election to be held to organize a workforce.

Once 50% of workers at a plant have signed an authorization card, the union says it would hold a rally with UAW President Shawn Fain, community leaders and supporters. After it reaches the 70% threshold, the union says it would demand voluntary recognition by the company. If that doesn't happen, it would file for an election with the NLRB that would allow workers to vote on whether to unionize.

The campaign comes after UAW members at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV went on a targeted strike for up to 46 days and then ratified new four-and-a-half-year contracts that include a 27% combined general wage increase, cost-of-living adjustments, billions of dollars in investments, a reduction in tiers, increased retirement contributions and pathways to organize members at battery plants under the master agreements.

Fain had said the hope is to take the momentum of those gains to organize transplant workers and employees at EV makers. Doing so would provide the union more influence, greater leverage at the bargaining table and more financial stability, but its efforts to bring these workers under its umbrella in the past have failed. Plants are often in southern and right-to-work states.

“To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn,” Fain said in a video to promote the campaign. “Since we began our stand-up strike, the response from autoworkers at non-union companies has been overwhelming. Workers across the country, from the West to the Midwest and especially in the South, are reaching out to join our movement and to join the UAW.

 

"The money is there. The time is right. And the answer is simple. You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. 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.”

Companies like Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Subaru have announced pay increases, reduced timelines to get to the top wages and other new benefits since the UAW reached tentative agreements with the Detroit automakers.

Subaru spokesperson Craig Koven referred to the company's statement from last week announcing the largest production wage increase in the company's history, which wasn't detailed except that wages will have increased seven times and more than 24% since 2019. The company also provides premium-free health care and company-matching contributions to flexible spending accounts.

The UAW's website highlights for each of the companies profit and revenues increases, executive compensation, increases in vehicle prices, stock buybacks and wealthy investors. Fliers also seek to inform workers on what their bosses cannot do legally when it comes to surveilling organizing efforts, making promises to prevent organizing, interfering with drives or making threats.

The union identified efforts at Toyota's plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, that builds the Camry, RAV 4 and Lexus ES as one of its "strongest campaigns."

"We’ve lost so much since I started here, and the raise won’t make up for that,” Jeff Allen, a 29-year employee at the Georgetown plant who has had two work-related surgeries, said in a statement. “It won’t make up for the health benefits we’ve lost, it won’t make up for the wear and tear on our bodies. We still build a quality vehicle. People take pride in that, but morale is at an all-time low. They can give you a raise today and jack up your health benefits tomorrow. A union contract is the only way to win what’s fair.”


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