United Auto Workers President Bob King said the union will label companies as human-rights violators if they disrupt efforts to organize workers.
“If a company makes the bad business decision to engage in anti-union activity, suppress the rights of freedom of speech and assembly, we will launch a global campaign to brand that company a human-rights violator,” King said today during a speech in Detroit. “We do not want to fight, but we will not run from a fight.”
King, 64, elected president of the union in June, is seeking to organize the U.S. factories of Asian and German automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Daimler AG. King has said he expects to organize at least one non-union automaker this year and today added that he has begun “preliminary discussions” with some of them. He declined to identify which companies or how many.
“We just have to convince them that we’re not the evil empire,” King told reporters following his speech at the Automotive News World Congress.
To persuade foreign automakers that it makes “business sense” to allow the UAW to organize their workers, the UAW is highlighting the cooperative relationships it has with General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, King said.
“We want to encourage the kind of relations we have, which is not to beat each other up or hold each other hostage,” King said.
Honda Motor Co. said today it is not talking to the UAW.
“Honda has had no dialogue with the UAW and has no interest in a discussion with them,” Ed Miller, a Honda spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “The issue of union representation is ultimately one for our associates to decide and, for more than three decades, Honda associates have spoken loudly and clearly by choosing to reject UAW outreach efforts.”
To help the U.S. 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. King estimates members gave up $7,000 to $30,000 in concessions since 2005.
King said workers at the U.S. automakers should be rewarded for their sacrifices now that the companies are gaining sales and profits. He wouldn’t say what specific compensation the union will ask in contract talks with GM, Ford and Chrysler this year. The union’s pact with the three automakers expires in September.
“You’re not going to make it up overnight,” King said. “But what’s important is that both through profit-sharing checks and through collective bargaining, the members feel they are being respected and that they’re getting their fair share of the upside.”