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Industryweek 11037 Dennis Williams

UAW Will Not Endorse Trump, Says Union President

May 19, 2016
The union will likely support Clinton, said Dennis Williams, who also spoke about the possibilities for unionizing Tesla workers and automotive temporary workers. 

In a talk with reporters today, UAW President Dennis Williams indicated that the union will likely endorse Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for president and called unionizing Tesla workers “a priority.”

Williams noted that, when surveyed, rank-and-file union members were somewhat divided in their support for Clinton, her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders and presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. But he declined to give percentages.

Williams said that members of the UAW executive board agreed that they would not support Trump. They will support the Democratic candidate who secures the nomination—either Clinton or Sanders, both of whom the board thinks would better represent workers’ interests, he said.

Clinton has 2,293 delegates to Sanders’ 1,533 as the primaries draw to a close.

 “I don’t want a president that has a good line,” he said, referring to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. “I want a president that has a line with a detail. [Trump] has avoided talking about the details, and that concerns me.”

“If there’s a concern that we have, all of us unanimously, we believe that unity is needed for the good of our country,” he added. “We believe that this election for president is serious business. It’s not a game show. It’s not something people should take lightly.”

Williams acknowledged that Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, pushed for the North American Free Trade Agreement that eased trade restrictions and sent U.S. jobs to Mexico. But that was Bill’s decision, not Hillary’s, he said. And the Republican Party has consistently pushed for free trade.

“What trade agreement have they ever voted against?” he said. “The answer is none. [Trump] represents that party.”

Tesla Union, and Temp Workers

Williams said he has met with Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk before, though not since Williams became UAW president in 2014.

Tesla manufacturers its electric cars at a sprawling former GM-Toyota joint venture plant in Fremont, Calif, using a fraction of the space  “We do have contacts there,” Williams said, adding that he didn’t want to go into further detail about organizing efforts there. “We know that plant.”

Williams said another priority is organizing temporary workers in the automotive industry.

“I don’t believe the temporary workers law was ever intended for companies to abuse temps to man a plant fully,” he said. “And I believe companies are abusing temps. It is a big focus for us because it’s a huge problem. Look at Nissan. Nissan has all these temporary workers in its facility (in Canton, Miss.) that have no employment rights. That to me is abuse of workers. Every day they go home not knowing if they’re going to be going back to work. That is so immoral. So it is a big issue for us.”

Referring to temporary workers as “contract workers,” Nissan said in written response to Williams’ comments:

“As with most automotive manufacturers, Nissan employs contract team members based on the needs of the business. To date, Nissan has transitioned thousands of contractors to full-time employees and will continue to do to support our manufacturing operations. Nissan employees enjoy jobs that are among the most secure and offer some of the highest manufacturing wages in the locations where Nissan operates, as well as strong benefits and a working environment that exceeds industry standards.”

Last month , when all 65 temporary workers running the production line at the Detroit Chassis automotive supply plant in Avon, Ohio, signed union pledge cards, the company agreed to recognize the union without an election.

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