Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the United Auto Workers’ Bob King thinks he’s just the union boss to make a go of it. With negotiations about to start with the Big Three American auto companies (two of which are UAW-owned), King is ramping up his rhetoric against the CEO of the only automaker that taxpayers did not bail out (Ford’s Mulally), while plotting his strategy for negotiations.
If action is necessary, “we have a new strategy to organize them,” Williams said, which involves mobilizing members, retirees and allies “to expose violations of human rights.”
The efforts fall under the umbrella of the newly created Global Organizing Institute that is training the activists.
“It has the potential to be the largest, sustained consumer action by organized labor,” Williams said. “We have the resources and the people to be successful in this mission.”
In the United States, the Institute has put coordinators in each state to oversee recruits from university campuses and social organizations. An initial group of activists also has been recruited abroad in countries including China, India, Brazil, Japan and South Korea.
This coordinated effort will allow simultaneous protests at a company’s dealerships around the world to press for auto plant union organization in the U.S.
A second wave of eight interns from other countries is wrapping up a visit to the United States, where they interviewed workers at nonunion auto plants in Mississippi and Alabama.
When the UAW picks a company, these young international leaders say they will take action against the target, knowing they have UAW support.
In addition, alliances have been formed with unions in Germany, Japan and South Korea.
The UAW has hired Richard Bensinger, the former head of the AFL-CIO’s organizing institute and a respected union tactician with more than 35 years of experience in labor-management battles in the private sector, to help coordinate the campaign against the union’s ultimate target.
“It will be the type of mobilization we’ve never done before,” Bensinger told the UAW bargaining convention in Detroit. He added that the union will also make extensive use of social and new media.
“We’re not going to make the mistake of just having a campaign in California and Texas,” he said.
Bensinger also said the campaign, which is reminiscent of the grape boycott in the late 1960s that led to the organization of the farm workers union, noted there has been a lot of skepticism about whether the UAW’s $60 million campaign could actually work.
However, the transnational autoworkers will have to gamble with their international reputations in fast-growing markets such as Brazil, where it is working on having the country’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, to endorse the boycott, Bensinger said.
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