A new effort is underway to organize the United Auto Workers, or UAW. The auto workers have long had a positive relationship with American businesses, but the UAW fell into bad faith during the GM strike and is struggling to regain that trust. The latest vote is a step in the right direction. In the coming months, the UAW and automakers will meet to decide whether to accept the agreement or reject it.
The UAW, which is one of the most iconic unions in the world, was born of heroic class struggle, but later became a corrupt bureaucratic mess. In the process, it was largely discredited by the American public and lost the trust of many workers. It will take time to rebuild the labor movement, but it is possible. However, it won’t be easy. If the UAW loses its way, it will be a challenge.
The UAW’s strategy has been a disaster for many years. It has failed to convince Southern autoworkers that a union is needed in their region. Last month, the UAW suffered its most significant defeat at Volkswagen’s Passat plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in an effort to win over nonunion workers. And now, the UAW is still struggling to convince its members that the UAW is the best way to improve their lot.
But the UAW has a history of hard times in the South. Since its founding, it has lost more than half of its members. The Southern regions are critical to the survival of the union. In Chattanooga, Tenn., the UAW narrowly lost a vote for representation there. After that, it set up a local union. The UAW is unable to get the vote over Volkswagen because of the company’s history.
Pro-union workers complain that they are not given a voice in the workplace and are cheated by management. The anti-union side, meanwhile, says that the UAW offers nothing but headaches and cynicism. Some automakers have even gone so far as to shift the work to their plants as sales fell during the recession. If this strike continues, GM’s credit rating may fall to junk territory, which would hamper the company’s ability to invest in electric mobility.
While the UAW needs to find a way to get the vote over the dues hike, it cannot avoid the problems that plague the union. The UAW has lost millions of dollars in organizing workers outside of Michigan and has failed to gain leverage in those factories. Despite the UAW’s best efforts, the two-tier system will remain in place until the automakers with foreign headquarters can get organized. However, the UAW is not going to give up on its campaign.
The UAW has experienced a decade of change. Its leaders have been weakened by the rise of Ronald Reagan’s administration and the repression by General Motors. In this decade, the UAW has become increasingly hostile toward workers and management. After a decade of turmoil, the UAW has emerged as a new player in the union’s struggle. And it is likely to win. This time, the workers will have more leverage.