The Wall Street Journal reports on the UAW’s desperate bid to increase its market share:
The United Auto Workers union said it is prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in a bid to organize employees, including a new push for hourly factory workers at foreign-owned car plants in the U.S.
The effort is part of a major shift in focus by the UAW, which had spent most of the past 75 years extracting better wages and benefits from the three Detroit auto makers.
Now, after two of the Big Three were forced into bankruptcy, in part because of uncompetitive labor contracts, the union’s new president intends to make a major push this year to organize workers at U.S. plants owned by makers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor Co.
The article suggests that the UAW isn’t counting on sweet reason to persuade its targets:
[I]f the [foreign-owned auto] companies don’t agree to a set of rules being promoted by the union to ensure what it calls free and fair union elections, he indicated the fight could turn nasty–and global.
The UAW, he said, would hold demonstrations at the corporate headquarters of these companies outside the U.S. as well as at their U.S. plants. In addition, it would picket their dealerships in the U.S. and abroad, and sports events globally that are sponsored by the car companies.
[UAW President] Mr. [Bob] King said he will tap the union’s strike fund of more than $800 million for the push, calling it the best way to protect his current membership.
The long article doesn’t off much of a reason why American employees of foreign-owned plants might need the UAW (“UAW officials plan an effort to persuade nonunionized workers that a company with UAW representation is better equipped to compete in an increasingly competitive auto market”), though it does quote a Berkeley professor opining that “this is an unprecedented effort by the UAW and pivotal to its survival.” The UAW apparently needs the workers more than the workers need the UAW. Is this really what Walter Reuther had in mind?
One can only hope that the UAW’s failure with these workers would spell its demise. Somehow, however, I’m afraid the UAW will find a way to carry on even in the face of continued adversity deriving from workers who have proved too savvy to sign up.
JOHN adds: I believe the UAW currently represents around three times as many retirees and widows as auto workers. Eventually, the union presumably will have to replenish its ranks by recruiting actual, living workers. The union is sort of like the mosquito: mosquitos live mostly on rotting vegetable matter, but once in every few generations a mosquito has to bite someone or something and draw blood.