No, as a matter of fact, we didn't think Bob King's newly minted tenure as UAW president would begin like this. King was elected just last week, and he's already called for the membership's first major action: picket their neighborhood Toyota dealers. Why? To put pressure on Toyota to let its U.S. factory employees unionize, especially after the messy closure of the NUMMI facility– and while the UAW is at it, Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai and Kia factory employees need to unionize as well.
The plan is for UAW members to "adopt" a local Toyota dealer and picket in front of it. In a speech, King said, "We're going to pound on Toyota until they recognize the First Amendment rights of their workers to come into the UAW," and "We're going to show these corporations that if they are unjust to our members that they are going to pay a price." Since dealers are franchise operations that can't really affect corporate policy, the hope has to be that Toyota will simply wish to avoid more PR hassle and sit down with the union.

King is determined to raise membership by getting the import factories unionized (curiously, no mention of Mercedes-Benz or BMW in any reports), as well as suppliers, so that the body has more wage- and concession-bargaining power. And he's not just looking to auto workers to help with this push – he's suggested retirees and other non-factory workers help on the picket lines. Of course, American International Automobile Dealers Association has come out with Gatling guns blazing against the move.

After a couple of years of Gettelfinger's quieter realpolitik, an immediate switch to ruckus tactics is a bit of a surprise. But hey, that's what a president with a landslide victory feels his people want, so let the drums boom. One can only hope that all the noise doesn't bring the whole house down...

[Source: Automotive News – sub req'd | Image: Carlos Osorio/Getty]

Share This Photo X