DENNIS SEID: UAW effort could make its way here

By Dennis Seid / NEMS Daily Journal

For nearly 25 years, Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Ky., has been humming along.
The first of Toyota’s North American plants, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky covers some 7 million square feet and employs more than 6,000 people. It is Toyota’s largest facility outside of Japan.
TMMK also is the “mother plant” to Toyota’s operations in Blue Springs, otherwise known as Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, or TMMMS.
So, Toyota Kentucky is the mentor for its Mississippi counterpart. Employees hired for TMMMS will travel to Georgetown and other Toyota facilities to get hands-on training as they get ready to produce the Corolla later this year.
And TMMMS workers may also hear about the fruitless efforts of the United Auto Workers union to organize the Georgetown plant during the past quarter-century.
UAW President Bob King said last week his organization plans to target foreign automakers “that don’t agree to the union’s principles for fair bargaining,” according to The Detroit News.
While he didn’t specify which companies would be targeted, he admitted that Toyota is among those under consideration.
The UAW intends to set up protests at dealerships around the world, at the headquarters of foreign automakers and on Wall Street, the paper said. The union also will target suppliers.
King has said that the survival of the UAW is at stake. No doubt. Membership topped out at about 1.5 million 30 years ago and now hovers around 350,000.
But there’s a reason automakers – and so many other companies – have flocked to the South: Unions aren’t welcome here.
Simply put, “labor-friendly” has a different meaning here. The business climate in the South, and in many other parts of the country, has never been friendly to organized labor.
But let’s not forget that early in the last century, unions played a vital role in helping to develop labor laws affecting wages and conditions. And that was a good thing.
Today’s unions, particularly the UAW, aren’t our great-granddaddy’s unions, however. Around here, you’ll often hear, “Unions aren’t needed anymore.”
Union-averse business leaders maintain that a third party isn’t needed between employers and employees.
And while today’s unions rail against big-business and corporate lobbyists, they, too, have become little more than the very groups they oppose. The UAW, for example, is spending $60 million from its $800 million strike fund for its efforts.
That fund, of course, comes from dues-paying members of the union.
The UAW says automakers that do not agree to its principles will be designated “human-rights violators.”
According to The New York Times, King said foreign automakers “would be better off morally and financially if they allowed their workers to organize.” The union, he said, “has changed its philosophy and could help the companies become more competitive, not less.”
After the UAW’s “success” in keeping workers employed at the Detroit Three automakers, no wonder the union is trying to change its tune.
But it’s likely to fall on deaf ears around here.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.