UAW Launches Toyota Organizing Campaign

June 18, 2010
New UAW president, Bob King, says the union will 'pound on Toyota until they recognize the first-amendment right to come into the UAW.'

The new head of the United Auto Workers union vowed on June 18 to organize workers at Toyota and other foreign carmakers.

"Were going to do whatever is necessary to insure that Toyota abandons its anti-union efforts," Bob King said, a day after his election to head the UAW.

In a fiery acceptance speech, King said the "only reason" the Japanese auto giant had closed its Fremont, California plant in April "was because it was a UAW plant."

"We're going to pound on Toyota until they recognize the first-amendment right to come into the UAW," he said.

"When any employer takes an anti-union stance we're going to show them that's a bad business case because they're going to make less than they did if they cooperated with the UAW."

King said he wanted to see UAW banners in front of every Toyota Motor dealership in the United States that say "Toyota put profits before people."

The union chief's comments came the same day Toyota announced it would resume construction on a plant in Mississippi, where the UAW is not present. The company said it would hire 2,000 people at the factory and produce Corolla vehicles.

Toyota had built Corollas at the Fremont plant, which had been a joint venture with rival General Motors. GM pulled out of the venture last year as it restructured under government-backed bankruptcy protection. Toyota closed the plant in April after reaching a deal with the plant's 4,500 unionized workers.

The Fremont plant was recently acquired by Silicon Valley firm Tesla Motors, which has teamed up with Toyota to build electric vehicles there.

King dismissed Toyota's $50 million deal with Tesla. "We know you're not going to keep the plant open with 20,000 Tesla S roadsters. That plant needs more product," he said.

When Toyota ran production at the Fremont plant, the company employed about 5,000 people and produced about 250,000 cars and 170,000 trucks and 4x4 vehicles a year.

The new UAW president said organizing workers at Asian automakers Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia was the best way for UAW members to win back the concessions they made in recent years as the auto industry slumped amid a sharp recession.

"If you are serious about winning back the sacrifices they have made, and I know you are, winning the right to organize is number-one on our list of priorities," King said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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