United Auto Workers Meeting Next Week to Set Strategy for Contract Talks

The United Auto Workers union will hold its quadrennial bargaining convention in Detroit next week to create its strategy for negotiating a new contract with U.S. automakers.

UAW President Bob King, who was elected the union’s leader in June, will lead the convention from March 22 to March 24 at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michele Martin, a spokeswoman, said today in an e-mail.

King, 64, will negotiate new contracts this year with General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and Chrysler Group LLC. While the agreements don’t expire until September, King has said workers must be rewarded for sacrifices they made to help the automakers survive. He said UAW members each gave $7,000 to $30,000 in concessions since 2005.

“All the sacrifices that our members made to turn these companies around were part of the process that’s really led to this amazing turnaround,” King said in a January interview. “We want our membership to share in a very meaningful way in the upside of these companies.”

To help the automakers survive, the union surrendered raises, bonuses and cost-of-living adjustments. The UAW also agreed to a two-tier wage system, in which new hires earn about $14 an hour, half the amount paid to senior production workers.

GM, which reorganized in bankruptcy in 2009, earned $6.17 billion last year. Ford, the only major U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy, had net income of $6.56 billion last year, the most since 1999. Chrysler, which also reorganized in 2009, posted a net loss of $652 million last year and forecast net income of as much as $500 million this year.

King also is seeking to organize the U.S. factories of Asian and German automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Daimler AG. (DAI) King has said he expects to organize at least one non-union automaker this year.

Through organizing and hiring at the U.S. automakers, King has said he hopes this year to reverse the UAW’s three-decade decline in membership. UAW membership has fallen to 355,000 members from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979.

To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Detroit at knaughton3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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