June 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm

UAW to spend less on plans to organize foreign carmakers

Casteel )

Newly elected United Auto Workers secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel says the union will expand its plans to organize auto plants run by foreign-owned automakers as early as this week, but also said the UAW may spend less on those campaigns than it has in recent years.

Casteel, speaking to reporters at the close of this week’s UAW constitutional convention, said the union may make news next week with plans to organize a Daimler AG Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, though it is believed the UAW does not yet have the support of the majority of the plant’s workers.

Casteel did not detail the plans, the latest attempt to increase membership from about 390,000, well below its historical high of 1.5 million in 1979. He also did not say how much less the UAW could spend on organizing efforts, but cited the efforts of Republicans and anti-union advocates in Tennessee as a reason for the strategy shift.

The union had taken out $15 million annually from its strike fund during the past four years for organization efforts, former UAW president Bob King said this week.

The UAW narrowly lost in its effort to organize Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant in February. But with the backing of VW officials, including Frank Patta, general secretary of the company’s global works council, the UAW said this week it will continue its organization efforts.

“I don’t see pullback from the other transnationals,” after the Chattanooga defeat, Casteel said.

Casteel said the UAW’s organization efforts will not be impacted by similar attempts from Unifor — the Canadian labor union that includes the former Canadian Autoworkers union — to hold a vote at Toyota Motor Corp. plants in Ontario. Unifor president Jerry Dias said this week a union vote at the plant will happen “sooner than later.”

“I don’t really believe in the domino effect,” said Casteel, who said he will remain in Tennessee to be closer to the Southern auto plants the union hopes to organize. “If Volkswagen had been successful, I didn’t see this domino effect with the other transnationals and vice-versa.”