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Can the UAW Organize the Entire Auto Industry?

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The future of the United Auto Workers fundamentally rests on organizing the massive parts of the unorganized American auto industry. The big contract victories (which were approved by members by surprisingly small margins; there was plenty of appetite left to continue the strike and get even more) wrested from the Big 3 were great, sure, but the future is the South and it is Tesla. In fact, the entire labor movement has always struggled to organize the South and rural Midwest, which is why companies move there. So this is a square that desperately needs to be circled in an era of capital mobility. It is sure going to try.

“To all the auto workers out there working without the benefits of a union, now it’s your turn,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a video posted on a website urging auto workers to sign electronic cards seeking union representation.

“The money is there. The time is right,” he added. “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 UAW’s deals with General Motors (GM.N), Ford Motor (F.N) and Stellantis (STLAM.MI) included a 25% increase in base wages through 2028, cut the time needed to reach top pay to three years from eight years, boosted the pay of temporary workers by 150% and made them permanent employees.

The UAW detailed its organizing strategy. The union said if 30% of workers at a nonunion plant sign cards seeking to join, it would make that public. If 50% of workers seek to join, the UAW would hold a rally with Fain to tout the effort. At 70% and with an organizing committee in place, the UAW would seek recognition or demand a union representation vote.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, when asked about the UAW’s efforts at the New York Times DealBook Summit Wednesday, said: “I disagree with the idea of unions.” He said if Tesla is unionized, “it’ll be because we deserve it and we failed in some way.”

Tesla is the world’s largest electric vehicle maker by market value.

Other automakers the UAW is targeting include Honda (7267.T), Subaru (9778.T), Mazda (7261.T), Lucid (LCID.O) and Volvo Cars.

Honda was cool to the idea of union representation at its U.S. plants.

“We do not believe an outside party would enhance the excellent employment experience of our associates, nor would it improve upon the outstanding track record of success and employment stability Honda manufacturing associates in America have achieved,” it said in a statement.

A Subaru spokesman said the Japanese automaker has “consistently demonstrated a commitment to proactively do the right thing for its associates.”

Uh huh.

I am real curious to see what is going to happen here. This is the most aggressive UAW leadership since Reuther. They are committed to organizing. Support for unions, at least in the abstract world of polling, is at an all-time high. So something could happen here. And if it does, that’s so, so, so important for rebuilding working class power in this nation.

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