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UAW Sets Sights on Toyota Plant in Missouri

by | March 8, 2024

The concerted effort by the UAW to capitalize on the momentum gained by its record-setting contract with the Detroit Three may be paying off. The union is looking to organize the previously resistant plants of foreign automakers across the southeastern U.S., and it looks a Toyota plant may be the first to make the leap.

Toyota Missouri plant workers

The UAW says 30% of the workers at Toyota’s Missouri plant say they want a union.

The United Auto Workers reports 30% of the workers at a Toyota plant in Missouri have signed union authorization cards, making it a key target in the UAW’s ongoing drive to organize the employees at non-union auto plants.

The plant in Troy, Missouri, which is about 60 miles northwest of St. Louis, employs about 900 and turns out cylinder heads for the automaker’s engine plants.

Toyota can’t verify claims

“Toyota has no way to verify or determine the accuracy of the statements made by the UAW. We do not believe a third party at our manufacturing facilities would enhance the results, stability or team member experience that we have achieved together. We are confident that with all of the facts, our team members would not choose union representation,” Scott Vazin, Toyota vice president of communications said in an email to Headlight.News.

UAW President Shawn Fain, who was a guest of President Joe Biden’s at the “State of The Union speech, visited with employees of Toyota’s huge assembly plant in Georgetown, Kentucky shortly after the union kicked off its ambitious drive to organize at non-union plants across the country.

UAW Pres. Shawn Fain speaks REL

UAW President Shawn Fain was a guest of President Biden at the State of the Union speech.

However, until now the union appeared to be focused on the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama.

More than half the workers at both the VW and Mercedes plants have reportedly signed union authorization cards at this point, and the UAW is counting on support from IG Metall, the influential metalworkers union in Germany, to pressure the German companies.

More than 30% of the workers at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama also have signed union authorization cards.

More Toyota stories

Safety big concerns for UAW supporters

The Toyota plant in Missouri is the fourth non-union plan where 30% or more of the workforce have asked for UAW representation, the union noted in a statement.

The UAW also released a video detailing some of the issues, prompting the employees in Troy to turn to the union.

“The plant is not safe,” said Jaye Hochuli, a team leader at the plant. “They had me crawl under a deck to clean out the sand and silica dust and chemicals that come out of the machines. It was a confined space. I should’ve been in a respirator and a hazmat suit.

UAW organizing in Alabama Mercedes

The union got encouraging signs at the Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama.

“All they gave me was a KN-95 mask. I came home and that dust was in my hair, on my clothes, in my underwear. How can the richest car company in the world not follow basic safety practices? We’re organizing to fix what’s wrong and win the protection we need.”

UAW bump

Even after Toyota increased pay in response to last year’s record UAW contracts — the “UAW Bump” — production workers in Troy make over $4 an hour less than their UAW counterparts, union supporters noted.

“Seeing the new contracts with the Big Three, that’s when I realized we needed a union,” said Charles Lashley, a team member in support. “It was incredible that UAW members could bargain for those benefits and that pay. I don’t see why we should be paid differently.

“Toyota makes more money than all the Big Three. So, there’s no reason why we should be so far behind. The company can’t run without us. We should get paid like it. We can by organizing our union.”

Lashley wasn’t alone in expressing dismay over the money and benefits.

Hyundai Alabama plant Santa Cruz panel REL

Hyundai is the latest transplant automaker to give its hourly workers raises in the wake of the UAW’s new contract.

“When I was hired two and a half years ago, I came in with 24 people. I’m the last one left,” said Jessica Clay a team member in die changes. “The overtime we worked was too much. Overtime now isn’t the problem it was, but there’s still no sick time. We still have to use PTO [paid time off] during shutdowns. I came from Ford; I came from UAW. The union was a better fit for your life. In our union, we have more control. We have a better life.”

New organizing gains

“The company has a slogan they like to use: One Toyota,” said Jarred Wehde, a production team member. “We’ve got the Toyota sign out front, just like they do in Kentucky and Indiana. But our pay is nowhere near what theirs is. We know what the company makes. We know they can afford to pay us. By organizing our union, we can win our fair share,” he said.

The UAW also has been seeking to organize among suppliers, where its influence has eroded dramatically over the past 30 years, leaving most of the sector non-union.

This week 100 workers at GNS North America in Canton, Michigan voted to join UAW Local 900, GNS employees make hot stamping and conventional stamped parts for GM, Tesla, and Stellantis.  This includes structural parts, roof enforcements, bumper components, B-pillars, and door beams.

Weld Automation Technician, Brian Herbst says, “Forming a union now gives us workers a voice that will be heard.”


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