UAW's plans to unionize nonunion automakers

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【Summary】The United Auto Workers (UAW) plans to organize nonunion automakers like Toyota and Tesla following successful bargaining with the Detroit Three. UAW leaders have highlighted recent wage increases and the desire to "organize like we've never organized before." Workers at nonunion auto factories have been reaching out to the UAW, and the union is determined to expand beyond the Big Three automakers to the Big Five or Big Six.

FutureCar Staff    Nov 03, 2023 6:16 AM PT
UAW's plans 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. This comes after Toyota agreed to increase wages for U.S. workers by 9 percent and reduce the time it takes for new hires to reach the top pay rate. Other foreign automakers, such as Honda, are also reviewing recent wage hikes in the auto sector and aiming to remain competitive.

Toyota has stated that the decision to unionize ultimately lies with its employees and that working together with its plant workers has provided stable employment and income. UAW president Shawn Fain is expected to deliver a video address outlining the details of the union's new contract with Stellantis. Fain has expressed the union's determination to organize workers at nonunion automakers, using the record wage increases achieved in agreements with Stellantis, General Motors, and Ford.

UAW Region 8 director Tim Smith has reported an increase in calls from workers at nonunion auto factories, particularly from Toyota's assembly operation in Georgetown, Kentucky. Smith emphasized the importance of considering total wages and benefits, not just the wage rate, and expressed the union's commitment to educating and supporting workers who are interested in joining.

The UAW has faced challenges in organizing nonunion auto factories due to labor laws that make it optional for workers to pay union dues. Previous attempts to organize workers at Tesla's Fremont, California, factory were unsuccessful. However, the UAW filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over a tweet by Tesla CEO Elon Musk that violated labor laws. The NLRB ruled in favor of the UAW, and an appeals court upheld the ruling.

Nonunion automakers have managed to keep hourly wages close to UAW rates but have lower labor costs overall due to lower health and retirement benefits and the use of temporary workers who are paid less. The UAW's new contract agreements with the Detroit Three will further widen the cost gaps, with pay increases for veteran workers, restoration of cost-of-living allowances, and significant pay boosts for temporary workers.

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