The United Automobile Workers union announced Wednesday an ambitious push to organize plants owned by more than a dozen non-union automakers, including Tesla and several foreign companies.
The move comes just weeks after the UAW won new contracts from General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellandis, giving 146,000 members pay raises of 25 percent or more over four and a half years.
In addition to Tesla, Drive’s targets include two electric vehicle start-ups, Lucid and Rivian, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Volkswagen, Mazda and 10 foreign automakers. Volvo.
U.S. plants owned by those companies employ nearly 150,000 workers in 13 states, the union said.
If the organizing drive gains momentum, it could become one of the UAW’s largest since its early days in the 1930s. Past attempts by the union to organize even single plants owned by foreign automakers concentrated in the south have been unsuccessful. A foothold between those companies would mark a major shift in the U.S. auto industry, where non-union manufacturers have long held a significant price advantage over Detroit automakers.
The organizing movement was fueled by inquiries from several thousand workers in non-union factories.
“Workers across the country, from the West to the Midwest and especially the South, are coming to join our movement and join the UAW,” said union president Shawn Fine. Video posted on Facebook. “There is money. The time is right,” he said.
A Honda statement cited the automaker’s “competitive wages and benefits,” adding, “We don’t believe an outside party will improve our associates’ excellent work experience.” Subaru did not comment directly on the union drive, but noted continued wage increases and a comprehensive benefits package.
Rivian and Volkswagen said they had no comment. The other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Wednesday, the UAW activated websites where workers can electronically sign cards that serve as official proof of their union representation. Previously, at a few plants, the UAW had already received cards signed by more than 30 percent of the workforce. LIMITATION REQUIRED UNDER FEDERAL LAW A person familiar with the matter said the union would move forward with a referendum on the union.
The union is now sending organizers to areas surrounding these non-union plants to collaborate with workers at those factories, this person said.
After the UAW reached agreements with Detroit automakers to raise wages, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai announced workers’ pay hikes.
Toyota has told workers it will raise hourly wages by 9 percent in January. Honda will raise wages by 11 percent and Hyundai by 14 percent next year. Hyundai plans to raise wages by 25 percent by 2028.
The UAW said Wednesday it is launching a concerted effort to organize a large Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky., that employs about 7,800 workers and produces the Camry sedan and RAV4 sport utility vehicle.
UAW members have long earned more than non-union workers. In the mills in the South, wages start below $20 an hour and go up to less than $30 an hour. The UAW hourly wage, which previously rose to $32, is in contracts the union signed with three Detroit manufacturers.
The UAW has lost by narrow margins twice in the past decade — in 2014 and 2019 — and the UAW narrowly lost unionization votes at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., at a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. 2017. Ordinance efforts at other companies’ plants fizzled out before the vote.
But Mr. After Fine became union leader this year, the union pledged a more aggressive approach to contract talks with the Big Three and renewed efforts to expand its reach in the industry.
In addition to wage gains at Detroit companies, the UAW won contracts to protect jobs and open a Stellandis plant in Illinois that was slated to close.
Arthur Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said the UAW’s wage gains made a strong case for unionization.
“It shows collective bargaining works and shows the UAW has been successful,” he said. “They can say: ‘We saved this plant. Look what we got. You can have this, too.'”
Past organizing drives suffered because the UAW had a tarnished image, Mr. Wheaton added: Many unionized plants have closed, and its members have had to accept wage and benefit cuts to help Detroit manufacturers survive the 2009 financial crisis and federal corruption investigations. It implicated senior union officials.
“A lot of the negative things about unionism — a lot of that is gone now,” Mr. Wheaton said.
Saint Nergar Contributed report.