UAW's efforts to unionize nonunion automakers

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【Summary】The United Auto Workers (UAW) is planning to launch organizing drives at Toyota, Tesla, and other nonunion U.S. auto factories following their success in bargaining with the Detroit Three automakers. UAW President Shawn Fain aims to organize workers at these nonunion automakers using the record wage increases achieved in recent agreements. Toyota has stated that the decision to unionize is up to its employees.

FutureCar Staff    Nov 02, 2023 11:16 PM PT
UAW's efforts to unionize nonunion automakers

Leaders of the United Auto Workers (UAW) have announced their plans to launch organizing drives at nonunion U.S. auto factories, including Toyota and Tesla. UAW organizing director Brian O. Shepherd expressed optimism about the potential benefits for Toyota workers if they joined the #StandUpUAW campaign, citing Toyota's recent agreement to increase wages for U.S. workers by 9% and reduce the time it takes for new hires to reach the top pay rate. Other foreign automakers, such as Honda, are also reviewing the recent UAW deals and considering their competitiveness.

Toyota has emphasized its history of stable employment and income for its employees and stated that the decision to unionize is ultimately up to its workers. UAW president Shawn Fain is expected to outline the details of the union's new contract with Stellantis in a video address. Fain has expressed the union's determination to organize workers at nonunion automakers, using the wage increases achieved in agreements with Stellantis, General Motors, and Ford as leverage.

UAW Region 8 director Tim Smith, who oversees nonunion auto factories in the southern U.S., has reported an influx of calls from workers at these plants expressing interest in joining the UAW. The UAW staff is keeping track of these calls, particularly those coming from Toyota's assembly operation in Georgetown, Kentucky. Smith emphasized the importance of considering total wages and benefits, not just the wage rate, and stated that the UAW is ready to educate and support workers who reach out for assistance.

The UAW has faced challenges in organizing nonunion U.S. auto factories due to right-to-work labor laws, which make union dues optional for workers. Previous attempts to organize workers at Tesla's Fremont, California, factory were unsuccessful. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been vocal about his opposition to unionization, but the National Labor Relations Board ruled that his tweet threatening workers violated labor laws. Despite these obstacles, the UAW remains committed to its organizing efforts.

Toyota's recent wage increase aligns with the strategy employed by nonunion automakers to deter UAW organizers. While hourly wages at nonunion automakers are comparable to those at the Detroit Three, they have lower overall labor costs due to reduced spending on health and retirement benefits. Additionally, nonunion automakers rely more on temporary workers who receive lower pay. As a result, the average hourly labor costs at foreign automakers are estimated to be $55, compared to $64 under the previous UAW contract.

If UAW workers at the Detroit Three ratify the new agreements, the gaps in labor costs will widen further. The agreements propose increasing pay for veteran workers by 25%, restoring cost-of-living allowances, and significantly boosting pay for temporary workers.

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