In what the United Auto Workers (UAW) union described as “an unprecedented move”, autoworkers at over a dozen US non-union automakers have announced simultaneous campaigns across the country to join the UAW.
“Thousands of non-union autoworkers are signing cards at the new UAW webpage, UAW.org/join, and are publicly organising to join [us],” the union said in a statement.
The organising drive would cover around 150,000 autoworkers across at least 13 automakers.
One of the strongest campaigns is at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly complex, its first US car assembly operations where 7,800 workers make the latest generation Camry, RAV 4 SUV and the Lexus ES.
Along with several other non-union automakers, Toyota announced it was raising pay just after UAW members won record contracts at the Detroit Big Three. But a Georgetown worker told the union the raise won’t dissuade workers from organizing.
“We’ve lost so much since I started here, and the raise won’t make up for that,” he said. “It won’t make up for the health benefits we’ve lost, it won’t make up for the wear and tear on our bodies. We still build a quality vehicle. People take pride in that, but morale is at an all-time low. They can give you a raise today and jack up your health benefits tomorrow. A union contract is the only way to win what’s fair.”
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The UAW claims many non union automakers use a mix of full-time, temporary and contract employees to divide the workforce and depress wages. At Hyundai’s assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama, a worker said she’s served for eight years in the paint shop as an employee of Glovis, a contractor that operates inside the plant. Cox made US $9.25 an hour when she started at Glovis in 2014 and didn’t become a full time Hyundai employee until July 2022.
“Hyundai would be so much better with a union,” she said. “I’m on workers’ comp right now because I just had carpal tunnel surgery. In my area, we struggle to keep a full staff because so many people are out injured. Being in the union, having a real say for safer jobs, it would be a better way of life for all of us.”
In a new video, UAW President Shawn Fain detailed the shared issues facing all autoworkers in the US.
“To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn,” says Fain in the video. “Since we began our Stand Up Strike, the response from autoworkers at non-union companies has been overwhelming. Workers across the country… are reaching out to join our movement and to join the UAW.
“The money is there. The time is right. And the answer is simple. You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay your rent or feed your family while the company makes billions. A better life is out there.”
The union claimed that. “fearing a surge of enthusiasm for organising following the UAW’s historic victories at the Big Three, many non-union automakers have attempted to lower autoworkers’ expectations by raising pay and shortening wage progressions. Still, non-union autoworkers lag far behind UAW autoworkers in wages, benefits, and rights on the job.”
“The unprecedented effort to publicly organise the entire non-union auto sector at once marks a departure with past organising efforts,” the UAW said.
“The new aggressive strategy is reflective of a new era of working class leverage and workplace organising.”