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Throughout The Car Industry

UAW Plans To Ramp Up Transplant Membership Drive

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On: Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 12:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

UAW Plans To Ramp Up Transplant Membership Drive

In the world of auto manufacturing there are two types of people: pro-union or non-union. There are pluses and minuses on both sides of the union issue, but the fact remains that the United Auto Workers union is a dominant force in the car industry.

The survival of any union depends on a robust membership. Right now, the UAW rosters stand at around 400,000 active members and nearly 900,000 retired members. Most of these folks are based in the Midwest around Detroit or living the good life in sunnier climates. A little upside down, yes? Much like Social Security? As anyone in the auto industry will tell you, most of the auto manufacturing is now concentrated in southern right-to-work bastions where Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen have set up operation. Those plants will be the focus of a new organizing drive spearheaded by current UAW President Bob King.

Luckily for King, he’s not going into this union drive alone. Famed civil rights activist Jesse Jackson has offered the support of his Rainbow PUSH coalition. Jackson boasts thousands of members and supporters standing by in 50 major U.S. markets. He’s just waiting for the “go” order from King. Other progressive groups are standing by for similar marching orders. The Detroit chapter of the NAACP and Farm Labor Organizing Committee are among them.

Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, said his members will turn out volunteers to leaflet, make phone calls, or demonstrate if King asks. “Bob's got the troops,” said Velasquez. This would be a return favor as Velasquez got help from UAW members to put the squeeze on R.J. Reynolds & Co. to allow 20,000 tobacco workers to vote on membership in the farm workers' union.

If all of this sounds like a throwback to the protest days of the 60s, King doesn’t see it that way. “The best way to rebuild the American middle class is to rebuild the union movement and the best way to do that is for progressive groups to work together. It's morally and socially the right thing to do to support other people's struggles for justice and fairness,” King said, “but it's also the most pragmatic thing in the world.”

Noble intentions aside, there is still the issue of whether or not the transplant workers want to join the union. Toyota spokesman Mike Goss proclaims that the 20,000 U.S. Toyota workers have been treated well over the years. In fact, the average UAW pay rates are close to what the non-union workers are already making.


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