Bob King (Paul Sancya / AP)
Washington — United Auto Workers President Bob King said Monday that the union needs high turnout to defeat Republican governors this fall — including Michigan’s Rick Snyder — and faces well-funded attacks on its organizing efforts.
“We’re not going to take back governorships in Wisconsin or Michigan or Ohio if we don’t get a voter turnout like the presidential year and the only way we are going to do that is with each of us taking more responsibility to challenge our sisters and brothers, our families, our neighbors,” King told about 1,500 UAW members and retirees at the union’s annual political conference here. “These elections coming up in 2014 are so critically important.”
But Bill Ballenger, an editor at Inside Michigan Politics, said the union faces an uphill battle to boost turnout. Typically, turnout in non-presidential election years is as much as a third lower. He said the union faces a real challenge in motivating people to get to the polls in November.
Snyder officially kicked off his re-election bid on Monday.
King said the UAW would be a “fighting union” in pushing back against anti-labor efforts across the country. He said the forces allied against the union have billions of dollars at their disposal.
“If we don’t take up the fight, if we don’t figure out how do we restructure — how do we bring more resources into the fight, how do we become more aggressive?” King said. “We have a choice in the UAW: We can shrivel up and let the right-wing forces carry on or say, ‘We’re going to fight. We’re going to be a fighting union.’ ”
“The forces against us are more aggressive and bolder than ever in our history,” King said. “Our folks needs to understand: These folks are committed to lowering our wages. They are committed that nobody would have defined pension plans. They don’t believe workers should have permanent jobs.”
He said funding by conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch helped secure the right-to-work legislation in Michigan in December 2012. They “planned it out, had a strategy and really out-strategized us, out maneuvered us and they did it as a template that they want to bring to the rest of the United States.”
King said on two separate occasions, two of President Barack Obama’s key campaign advisers, David Plouffe and David Axlerod, individually told him that “without the UAW we would not have won this election, in the battle ground states especially.” The $85 billion auto bailout and Mitt Romney’s opposition was a key issue in Ohio and other states.
King said the union has now organized more than 11,000 casino workers and said the union could ultimately add another 50,000 or 60,000 dealers after it organized its first group of dealers at a Las Vegas casino.
King UAW said in 2013 raised the most ever from its members through its voluntary program called V-CAP, a labor political action committee that the union uses to raise money for political activities.