The manufacturing sector produced a recent grab bag of stories about union tactics, a potential shakeup from within union ranks, and some notable strike news.
Much of our discussion this week sources from the UAW’s deeply entrenched legacy of corruption, which already resulted in the feds slapping dozens of union officials with felony convictions and prison sentences, along with a court-appointed watchdog who called out union officials’ refusal to cooperate. The scandal (and the UAW’s quest to recover amid further fallout, including plummeting membership numbers) now takes an interesting twist: the snake is eating its own tail.
The UAW happens to be the subject of two significant stories this month: (1) The quest for greater membership numbers via the Biden-supported push for the automakers to crank out more EVs; and (2) Infighting between the union bureaucracy and a rank-and-file member who’s challenging current President Ray Curry for the gig.
- The EV battery plant battleground heats up: A Toledo plant will undergo a $760 million GM investment (fueled by incentives from Congress and approval from Biden) to build electric-truck drive units for future battery-powered trucks. The UAW saw this window and proposed speeding up the unionization process at GM’s EV battery factories by bypassing a ballot vote and achieving recognition via card-check authorization.
The union also aims to do so in nearby Lordstown, where GM has so far declined to recognize the union. Watch for future UAW tactics to happen at two more (under-construction) GM and LG Energy joint-venture battery plants (in Michigan and Tennessee) and a possible fourth EV production plant in Indiana.
- The UAW presidential race grows messier: A Ray Curry rival, Will Lehman, continues to put union bureaucracy on blast. Lehman (a Mack Truck tiered worker) based his campaign upon abolishing the UAW’s existing structure, which he argues only benefits union executives and bureaucrats who draw millions of dollars in salaries. Lehman is fighting an uphill battle with union officials, who had him ejected from the Flint GM assembly plant while he campaigned. Still, this election could get tricky for Ray Curry’s future in office.
Lehman (who outright slams the UAW while hoping to lead it) has proven to be popular with fellow rank-and-file workers at multiple Ford and Stellantis factories, and he publicly called out wage and pension tiers while winning the backing of Detroit Assembly complex autoworkers. Further, significant opposition to Curry’s leadership boosted support for Lehman, who also criticized GM’s alleged mistreatment of workers at the Silao, Mexico plant, where workers were fired after organizing (for an independent union) and ousting the corrupt CTM union.
FYI: UAW members begin to vote on Oct. 17, and tabulations begin on Nov. 29.
Let’s wrap up with some unrelated strike news:
- The United Mine Workers of America union carries on with the Warrior Met coal strike hitting 16 months in Alabama with no end in sight. In doing so, the UMWA topped the length of its own eight-month strike (which was much larger in terms of membership) that took place back in 1946.
- The NLRB labeled Exxon’s 10-month lockout (of 600+ workers who headed back to work in February) as an “unlawful” attempt to push out the United Steelworkers union. For its part, Exxon requested to postpone the scheduled (administrative law) hearing on those lockout charges. However, the board continues to pursue back pay for those workers, which potentially adds up to millions of dollars.