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Who wants a union? Not Southern autoworkers, it seems

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  • Who wants a union? Not Southern autoworkers, it seems

    Foreign automakers are placing their U.S. factories in the region because of generous incentives and a workforce famously resistant to unions. That's presenting a huge challenge to the once-formidable United Auto Workers.

    Reporting from Montgomery, Ala.—

    Deric Golden has what he calls his dream job, fixing small flaws on the sedans being churned out at the Hyundai factory here.

    So when two organizers from the United Auto Workers knocked on his apartment door one day, hoping to get him to sign a union card, he quickly sent them packing.

    "I told them I didn't work at the plant," said Golden, 29. "I just wasn't interested."

    It's the same story in town after town along the southern tier of Auto Alley, a corridor that runs north-south along interstates 75 and 65 from Lexington, Ky., to Montgomery.

    Foreign automakers — including Honda, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen — are placing their U.S. factories in this region because of generous state and local incentives and a workforce famously resistant to unions.

    Still, this is the region that Bob King, president of the UAW, calls a key battleground that could alter the future of the industry's labor movement. And it's workers like Golden whom the union must win over.

    "It is critically important for our membership to organize those facilities to keep the companies where we already represent workers competitive," King said. "We need to make sure that companies compete on the basis of engineering, design, quality and innovation — not on who can pay their workers the least."

    The Southern battle is shaping up at a time when the labor movement is facing new assaults from anti-labor governors and legislatures in traditionally friendly environs such as Wisconsin and the industrial Midwest. King is hoping his pitch — that the union is the defender of middle-class jobs and upward mobility — will resonate with the rank and file.

    "We keep putting more taxes and lower wages on the people who are working in this nation and keep giving tax breaks to the wealthy," he said. "And that will destroy our democracy."

    The union's membership has been shrinking across the country, hurt by the recession, bankruptcies by General Motors and Chrysler and an industrywide restructuring that has closed dozens of factories with UAW contracts.

    Since 2007, the number of auto industry workers belonging to the union has plunged 46% to just 185,522 from more than 345,407.

    Plants in the South are churning out more of the nation's supply of new vehicles. They now account for about half of all vehicle manufacturing in the U.S., yet none of the factories operated by the foreign automakers in the region has union workers.

    The Detroit-based UAW could see its role in setting wages and benefits for the industry severely diminish unless it gains members at those plants, King said.

    Wages vary by company and geographic region, making exact comparisons difficult. Average labor costs — wages and benefits — for the unionized Detroit automakers and nonunion Toyota's U.S. plants are about the same at $55 an hour, according to the Center for Automotive Research. But the rest pay less; nonunion Honda pays about $50 an hour. Nissan, Hyundai and Kia are at about $45.

    Since the 1950s, the UAW has "played a central role in producing a growing and vibrant American middle class," said Harley Shaiken, a UC Berkeley professor and labor expert. The wages and benefits it exacted from the Detroit automakers in the second half of the 20th century set a pattern for manufacturing wages nationwide, he said.

    Though much smaller now, the union remains a force — and King has moved to expand its reach by courting new political constituencies such as environmentalists and human-rights activists as well as new industries.

    But the UAW is having trouble making its case to workers who have an intense loyalty to the automakers who brought high-paying blue-collar employment to these small towns and cities starved for jobs.

    "I don't want to give any more pieces of the pie to anyone else. I need it for myself," said Kevin Carroll of La Grange, Ga., who was unemployed when hired by Kia Motors Manufacturing last year.

    The West Point, Ga., Kia plant, which opened in 2009, has had more than 100,000 applications for just 2,100 positions.

    Charles Miller of Powder Springs, Ga., had worked for an industrial parts manufacturer that for the 18 months before he joined Kia in August had put its workers on a one-week furlough every month. He said the factory job he landed painting Kia Sorrento SUVs had better pay and benefits even without the furloughs, greatly improving his finances.

    "We have good communication with management here. Why would you need a union?" he asked. "The only time a union shows up is to collect dues or at election time."

    Sentiments like these emphasize the magnitude of the challenge the UAW faces.

    "It is pretty hard to see the union breaking through," said James Rubenstein, an auto industry analyst and geography professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. "It would have to be a plant where the working conditions have gotten so bad that people are up in arms and furious with management. There really aren't any bad factories anymore. These plants are now warm and fuzzy."

    King's organizers have been hitting the pavement as he tries to persuade companies to allow the union to make its case directly to the workers.

    King wants Hyundai and the other foreign companies making cars in the South to agree to a set of organizing principles for "fair elections" that would allow the union to make its pitch to employees in a setting that's free of workplace "tension, fear and discord."

    His proposal includes having the union and management address workers at the same time and in the same manner, whether it is posting notices in the factories or having meetings of similar duration.

    "All we want is a fair process, and whatever the workers decide will be the decision. If they decide they don't want to be in the union, we will accept that and move on," King said.

    The automakers haven't responded publicly to the UAW's proposal for a set of principles outside of what is already required by labor law. And they were reluctant to talk about the union's efforts.

    "Our employees will have a voice in the company, and our people will decide for themselves what their representation looks like," said Hans-Herbert Jagla, the executive vice president of human resources at Volkswagen's factory in Chattanooga, Tenn.

    Similarly, J. Randy Jackson, the director of human resources at the Kia plant, said union representation was for "our team members to decide."

    So far, the UAW has had little success. The union lost elections at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

    "The UAW has to have a reason to come inside the company. Nissan doesn't give them one," said Nish Peters, who has built cars at Nissan's factory for the last 17 years. "I don't need someone talking to the boss for me."

    http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fi-03...546,full.story
    Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

  • #2
    The companies are putting the factories there because those are right to work states and unions can't have closed shops in those states. People are seeing throught the curtains that unions are trying to put up. You don't need a union to get fair wages or benefits. If a company sees the value of their employees, they will give the pay and benefits that unions don't need to negotiate for them. Right to work should be in every state, closed shops should be illegal.
    GOD IS A NINJA WITH A SNIPER RIFLE, WAITING TO TAKE YOU OUT.

    "For weapons training they told me to play DOOM"

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    • #3
      The UAW is the main reason the US auto industry went to poo, those idiots priced thier workers out of the market and now need a new base of membership to stay in action. The UAW is one of the most, if not the most corrupt union of them all. While I do like being a union member as a public employee I don't think it is nessacery in these plants. Though if LAPD didn't have a union I'd probably be working for state minimum wage.
      Originally Posted by VegasMetro
      maybe it’s me but I think a six pack and midget porn makes for good times?????

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      • #4
        When I see or hear of unions I think about this:




        Last edited by westside popo; 03-29-2011, 02:24 AM.

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        • #5
          "Fair"? Really, thats what card check was about? Fair? Yeah, right. Intimidation is the key. And without that, they lose. Like any parasite, once the host is sucked dry, you need a new one.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by westside popo View Post
            When I see or hear of unions I think about this:
            I like it how ignorant people like to pretend that union members aren't taxpayers. I also find it hilarious that people think union members are all greedy fat cats living it up. That is the biggest bunch of horse crap I have ever heard. Working hard and making a middle class living does not make you greedy.
            What is Perseverance?
            -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
            -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.
            -PERSEVERANCE IS TRYING AGAIN AND AGAIN.


            BOP - BPA - ICE

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            • #7
              Originally posted by TheKansan View Post
              I like it how ignorant people like to pretend that union members aren't taxpayers. I also find it hilarious that people think union members are all greedy fat cats living it up. That is the biggest bunch of horse crap I have ever heard. Working hard and making a middle class living does not make you greedy.
              No one says that government workers don't pay taxes. Even illegal aliens who illegally receive welfare pay taxes. And how do the taxes paid by government union workers compare with the money they receive in salary and benefits?
              Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
              Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

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              • #8
                I'm not anti-Union, I'm just pro-union in the right places. Right now I work for a major national retailer. I'm relatively happy and the company does a good job of keeping company morale up and offering decent wages for the work provided. However, much of this is because of the threat a union would pose to their business. If you take away our right to unionize, you take away our company's reason to be generous to its workers.
                -2Adam29... 10-8. Code-7

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                • #9
                  You have to keep in mind business are in the business of making money...These big companies have to keep their investors' happy, they have to take care of their worker (Honda, BMW, and even Kia must be great companies to work for), they have to be competitive in the markets...It's not only auto companies moving (or coming South) South, but other companies who were from up North are moving South...I'd rather not have a union, if I see workers being treated unfairly, or being put in danger I would stand up and draw attention to the issues, I'm sure other co-workers would be there too, we wouldn't need a "union"...People have the power, not Unions...

                  Why live in a cold place where they tax you to death, where you can move to Florida, North Carolina, or Texas, where weather is nice and these places are business friendly, not to mention the cost of living is lower...

                  Originally posted by TheKansan View Post
                  I like it how ignorant people like to pretend that union members aren't taxpayers. I also find it hilarious that people think union members are all greedy fat cats living it up. That is the biggest bunch of horse crap I have ever heard. Working hard and making a middle class living does not make you greedy.
                  Union workers may not be living it up, but the Union bosses and shotcallers are making good money...
                  sigpic

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by 2Adam29 View Post
                    If you take away our right to unionize, you take away our company's reason to be generous to its workers.
                    Not necessarily. Workers who are happy with their terms of employment are more loyal and do a better job. Having a reputation as a good place to work helps a business to hire the best workers.
                    Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
                    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      in some instances, that's very true, and in those cases unions are not needed, as I said, unions are good in the right places. However in a national retailer, they are more concerned with putting enough inexpensive bodies behind the cash registers than they are with making sure all of those folks are the best possible candidates for the job.
                      -2Adam29... 10-8. Code-7

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 2Adam29 View Post
                        in some instances, that's very true, and in those cases unions are not needed, as I said, unions are good in the right places. However in a national retailer, they are more concerned with putting enough inexpensive bodies behind the cash registers than they are with making sure all of those folks are the best possible candidates for the job.
                        First of all, you assume sub silentio that what is good for the union member is good for the country in general. I disagree. Unionization drives up the cost of living for everyone. It also reduces competitiveness, thereby reducing employment.

                        Retailing is extremely competitive. Most people prefer to pay lower prices rather than subsidize unions; unionized retailers are more expensive. That is one reason why Walmart has been so successful.

                        Unionization also drives down the number of employees. Automation can be substituted for labor. Supermarkets that are unionized generally use self-serve checkouts more than local chains or Walmart.

                        Unions also introduce inefficient work rules that drive up the cost of production.
                        Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
                        Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by GIOSTORMUSNRET View Post
                          You don't need a union to get fair wages or benefits.
                          Only because unions went on strike until fair wages and decent working conditions became a matter of law. To a large extent, unions have legislated themselves out of a job - but not entirely.

                          If a company sees the value of their employees...
                          And if they don't? I'm old enough to have known men who worked in the woods around here pre-union. One told me how the bodies of men killed on the job were left where they fell until quitting time. All we could do, he said, was cover they face with their jacket.
                          If your employer treats you like a human being, that's great. If not, who you gonna call?

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                          • #14
                            I don't want a union where I work, and I don't think they are that great once in place, I'm just saying that the threat of a union can force a business to treat their employees better.

                            Wal-Mart doesn't unionize, but it treats its employees terribly, and is constantly under lawsuit after lawsuit for unfair gender practices, forcing employees to work off the clock, and inadequately providing their employees basic benefits. So yeah, it made its executives plenty rich, but it came at the cost of its workers in America and Industrial jobs in just about every arm of manufacturing domestically. Frankly, I wish Wal-Mart had a union, just because it is an example of a business that has really exploited people to get "successful". I realize this would most likely sink the business, but I think it would be a justified result of decades of exploitment of workers and US corporate policy.

                            I work for Target (although I do not represent them in any way) and while Target is not perfect, it treats its employees MUCH better than Wal-Mart. I don't think Target will ever unionize, and I don't think it should, but that is because they respect their workers and make it a great place to call home. We don't need to threaten a union, because we're happy as we are.

                            by the way, even though Target treats its employees well, it still can cost less than Wal-Mart.

                            http://chicagobreakingbusiness.com/2...on-prices.html
                            Last edited by 2Adam29; 03-29-2011, 11:02 AM.
                            -2Adam29... 10-8. Code-7

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Seventy2002 View Post
                              If your employer treats you like a human being, that's great. If not, who you gonna call?
                              Another employer.
                              Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
                              Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

                              Comment

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