June 2, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Likely next UAW chief vows to stay active in southern organizing

Dennis Williams, who is likely to be elected as the new president of the United Auto Workers this week, said the Detroit union has no plans to end its organizing efforts in the South. He said the union would respond to concerns raised by pro-union workers at Daimer AG’s Vance, Ala., assembly plant.

Williams told reporters on the sidelines of the union’s 36th Constitutional Convention that he would send Gary Casteel — who helped organize at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant — to Alabama to meet with workers after this week’s convention ends. The Birmingham (Ala,) Star reported Saturday that some pro-union workers had asked the UAW to abandon its effort and suggested another union might be able to take up the effort to organize a union at the German auto plant. Workers expressed frustration that the UAW hadn’t called an election.

“They are frustrated because they want to have an election right away,” said Williams, who is currently secretary-treasurer. “We have more building to do there.”

Williams said he understood the frustration and said the UAW wants to help the workers. “They want representation, but we’re evaluating what’s the best way to get them that representation,” Williams said. “They want help. They want a voice... so help’s on its way.”

He said the union has a long-term strategy to organize foreign auto plants and that the union will continue to revise its strategy. “We’re not leaving the South. I mean, people better get used to that,” Williams said.

The UAW wants to organize a number of Asian- and German-owned auto plants in the South.