The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has announced a groundbreaking initiative to organize the entire nonunion auto sector in the United States. This move comes after the UAW successfully negotiated new contracts with the Detroit Three automakers—General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis.
The UAW, based in Detroit, disclosed that workers at 13 nonunion automakers, including Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Rivian, Nissan, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, are launching simultaneous campaigns across the country to join the union. These automakers collectively employ nearly 150,000 workers at their U.S. assembly plants, a figure comparable to the workforce of the Detroit Three.
In a video message, UAW President Shawn Fain urged nonunion auto workers to seize the opportunity, stating, “To all the auto workers out there working without the benefits of a union, now it’s your turn.” Fain emphasized the financial viability of such a move, asserting that workers no longer need to worry about basic necessities while companies make substantial profits. The recent contracts with the Detroit Three included significant benefits, such as a 25% increase in base wages through 2028 and improvements for temporary workers.
The UAW outlined its strategy for organizing nonunion plants, indicating that public disclosure would occur if 30% of workers signed cards seeking to join the union. At 50%, the UAW would hold a rally, and at 70%, with an organizing committee established, the union would seek recognition or demand a union representation vote.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed disagreement with the idea of unions, stating that if Tesla were to unionize, it would be because they failed in some way. Other automakers, including Honda, Subaru, Toyota, Rivian, and Volkswagen, either declined to comment or could not be immediately reached by various sources.
This effort by the UAW with nonunion automakers mirrors its approach with the Detroit Three, negotiating simultaneously with all three companies after a six-week strike. The move also coincides with foreign automakers announcing compensation improvements in response to UAW contracts, seen as an attempt to discourage unionization in their plants.
U.S. President Joe Biden has voiced support for the UAW’s efforts to unionize other carmakers, emphasizing the desire for similar contracts for all auto workers. Labor experts recognize the challenges but see the current environment as more favorable, given the recent successful negotiations with the Detroit Three, increased public support for unions, and backing from the White House.