Sunday, December 14, 2008

UAW Makes Inroads in Kentucky

The worse possible scenaro for the Toyota Plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, would be for the workers to Unionize, yet it appears that their greatest fear may become their reality.

For the past two decades, the United Auto Workers union has been a constant, but largely neutralized presence Kentucky. But, emboldened by Toyota's plans to cut labor costs at its U.S. factories, the UAW is making its most concerted push yet to organize workers at the Japanese automaker's largest American plant. In a departure from previous efforts, the movement is drawing attention to issues like wage stability and workplace safety, rather than focusing on gathering workers' signatures on union cards.

Organizers have seized on leaked Toyota internal documents that show the company wants to cut $300 million in labor costs in North America by 2011. They have joined forces with community activists, local politicians and workers' rights advocates to make their case for Unionizing the Georgetown plant. This would be an enormous victory for the UAW, as it would be the first time it had organized a factory wholly owned by a Japanese automaker.

The UAW needs a foothold in the company that is on track to displace General Motors as the world's largest automaker. Unless they can organize it, the union's power will inevitably be flushed away. Organizing Toyota promises to be difficult, and it remains unclear how much real progress will result from the latest push in Georgetown.

While Union organizers said they had seen an increase in attendance at their regular meetings, the UAW will not say how many Toyota workers are actively supporting the new effort.
In interviews, pro-union workers at the Georgetown plant said they were fighting the perception that unions were irrelevant, even dangerous to Toyota's future. Recently, the company has taken a harder line on wages and labor costs, giving union organizers what they perceive as an opening. Just last week, Toyota told workers in Kentucky they would have to start paying a premium for health insurance for family members.

And over the last few months, Toyota management has summoned small groups of workers to attend a presentation described by executives as a routine update for workers. While no Toyota executive explicitly says it, the theme of the presentation is that Toyota will end up in the same troubled waters as GM if something does not change. "That doesn't sit well," said Charles Hite, who works on the loading dock at the Georgetown plant and has been with Toyota for 15 years. "They want people to fear losing their jobs."


Judith said...

Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants. Destroy the auto industry as one way to get rid of Unions (and hurt the Democrats financially), and the next thing you know, your non-Union plant is Unionized.

iamcoyote said...

Well, the organizers gotta go somewhere!

Seven of Six said...

Well, the organizers gotta go somewhere!

There is always Wal-Mart.

Anjha said...

That is really good news.

That would be the greatest outcome in all of this BS; the Republicans piss off the working class so much with their beligerance that they end up having it backfire...not only do they fail at breaking the UAW in Detroit - they actually succeed at spreading the UAW all over the South!!

Tee Hee.

We can all dream, can't we.