The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Organizing Transplant Auto Workers
– What It Will Take

Jan 24, 2011

Top officials of the UAW have begun a 60-million-dollar campaign to organize workers at foreign owned auto makers – called “transplants” – into the union.

What are UAW officials proposing to achieve this goal?

They propose pickets at corporate headquarters – or at banks – or at auto dealerships. Well yes, these tactics may achieve a little publicity for the UAW and its new president, Bob King.

And they are calling on the companies to respect rules of “fair play.” And that may also draw a little publicity.

But the way to massively organize transplant auto workers was indirectly stated by UAW president Bob King himself.

In a recent statement, King wrote of the 1930s: It took “Sit-down strikes and demonstrations until 100% of the U.S. auto industry was unionized” – in other words, an adversarial approach.

That’s what it took before, and that’s what it will take again – no matter what particular tactics, the readiness to enable the workers to carry on a fight against the bosses.

The battle is over how can UAW membership become so attractive that unorganized workers will want to join despite the threat that will come from companies unwilling to “play fair.”

Workers join a union that helps them come together to improve their standard of living.

How can a union, where top leaders are not only agreeing to cut members’ wages in half but also destroying retirees’ medical care, be attractive? But that’s exactly what the top leaders of the UAW, starting with King himself, have done.

So now UAW members are in a contract bargaining year. Are UAW officials already organizing shop floor resistance inside every Ford, GM and Chrysler factory – to get back those concessions given up?

No. Implicitly, UAW officials argue that workers have to wait – until AFTER foreign-owned transplant companies unionize.

The result is that both domestic and foreign auto makers are in a race to see how close to the bottom they can take the workers. And workers at GM, Ford and Chrysler – as a result of these last concessions – are closer to the bottom than Toyota and Honda workers.

Winning a few battles in the fight to regain what has been lost could make union membership impressive enough that workers at transplants would see the obvious benefits of joining a fighting union.