The United Auto Workers is stepping up its campaign to organize workers in Southern states, filing a series of unfair labor practice complaints against Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen as part of the effort.
UAW President Shawn Fain also disclosed he is taking a personal hand in directing the campaign, noting he met personally last week with a group of pro-union employees from the Toyota manufacturing complex in Georgetown, Kentucky not far from the home of his grandparents in Nicolson, Kentucky, where he lived before he moved to Indiana for work in the auto industry.
“No single company is going to be the target. They’re all going to be the target,” Fain said during an appearance on Facebook Live. “At the non-union automakers, it’s a dictatorship. The minute you walk in, whatever the boss says goes,” he added.
A year ago, Toyota, which has made more money than Detroit’s three automakers combined, according to Fain, gave the workers at the top of the scale a raise to make $30 per hour. But the company reduced the health-care benefits, Fain said.
Fain also said the UAW will help workers protect their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, and to fight any effort by management at non-union plants to intimidate pro-union employees.
Dozens of Volkswagen employees have signed cards since the UAW publicized that it had collected more than 1,000 signatures among VW workers in less than a week, added Fain.
He noted the number of requests from non-union workers has grown steadily since the start of “Stand-Up Strike” against Detroit’s three automakers back in September. “It started with one or two,” he recounted, but has steadily grown since then, “Now we’re getting dozens.” And more are coming.
“Workers everywhere are showing they won’t be bought off by crumbs,” said Fain, noting the non-union companies have announced a series of pay increases.
Fain added the union is preparing for fight an anti-union blitz that he says is now underway. “These companies are more than willing to break the law if it means protecting their bottom line,” he said.
The UAW says Honda workers report being targeted and surveilled by management for pro-union activity at the company’s Indiana Auto Plant in Greensburg, Indiana. Hundreds of workers at the facility have signed union cards and are organizing to join the UAW, Fain said.
“We are filing an unfair labor practice charge against Honda because of management illegally telling us to remove union stickers from our hats, and for basically threatening us with write-ups,” said Honda worker Josh Cupit.
“It’s essentially to show Honda that we know what our rights are and that they’re not gonna bully us and we’re not gonna back down from ’em. And we know that they are in the wrong,” he added.
Honda said in a statement, “Honda encourages our associates to engage and get information on this issue. We have not and would not interfere with our associates’ right to engage in activity supporting or opposing the UAW.”
In a separate complaint, the UAW also cited anti-union harassment at Volkswagen. “On Thursday, Dec. 7, at an early morning shift change, security guards stopped a group of Volkswagen union supporters from distributing flyers to their coworkers at Gate 3,” the union notes in its complaint.
“We’ve done hand billing at that gate before and the company has never done anything like this,” said Dave Gleeson, a production team member in finish and repair. “We were just getting ready to hand out flyers and security came up and told us we couldn’t. I asked if this was his decision, and he said no, this is coming from way over my head. Our campaign caught the company completely flat-footed, and they overreacted. We’re not going to be intimidated. We know our rights and we’re going to keep standing up and keep speaking out,” Gleeson adds.
At Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama plant, management has unlawfully confiscated, destroyed, and prohibited pro-union materials in non-work areas during non-work times. Hundreds of workers continue to sign up to win their union despite this illegal interference and intimidation.
Tim Cripple, a team member in engine assembly at Hyundai, was in a break room and had a few union leaflets on the table in front of him. “A group leader came in and called team relations on the phone,” added Cripple. “They said you can’t have them in here and the group leader threw them in the trash. At the same time, they have someone from the company sitting in the cafeteria handing out anti-union t-shirts and flyers. That’s just wrong, and we are not going to be silenced,” Cripple says.
Hyundai said in email they are still reviewing and finalizing a reply to the UAW’s charges.
“These companies are breaking the law in an attempt to get autoworkers to sit down and shut up instead of fighting for their fair share,” said Fain. “But these workers are showing management that they won’t be intimidated out of their right to speak up and organize for a better life.”