Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A union’s ‘make-over’ for 21st century globaliztion

One of America’s largest unions, the United Auto Workers (UAW), is undergoing a complete make-over, according to its newly elected president, Bob King.

The make-over is from a 20th century union to one geared to the 21st century, King said in a lengthy address on August 2 to ta conference of the Center for Automotive Research. As he sees it, a 21st century UAW is becoming “fundamentally and radically different.” Among the differences he mentioned were these:

• Embraces as its own the mission of producing the highest quality, best-value product for its customers, vs. joining with companies in “the mindset that it was the company’s job to worry about profits and the union’s job to worry about getting the workers their fair share.”

• Makes consumer safety, energy efficiency, and environmental protect a priority, vs. “failing to champion forcefully or effectively enough the goals of preserving our environment for future generations through green manufacturing.”

• Welcomes the openness, collaboration, and creative problem-solving that it has forged with Chrysler, GM, and Ford, vs. the mutual distrust that produced lengthy and complicated contracts “with work rules and narrow job classifications that hindered flexibility, hindered the full use of the talents of our members and promoted a litigious and time-consuming grievance culture.”

• Knows that the only true path to job security is by producing the best quality, safest, and most durable product, vs. relying on ways, such as job banks, that “in the end did not achieve the results that we were seeking”

King stressed that the 20th century UAW “grew in an era of national rather than global economics, in which “employers did not face the intense pressure of global competition,” whereas the global marketplace now makes flexibility, innovation, lean manufacturing, and continuous cost-improvement paramount.

Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm praised this transformation in her August 10 posting titled “Not Your Father’s UAW” on Huffington Post.. “Instead of being blamed for chasing investment away from industrial states, the UAW may be the place to turn to ensure a company’s success,” she wrote.

More to come:
the UAW is developing a set of guidelines called the UAW Principles for Fair Elections, which it will present to the managements of Japanese-owned and other non-union auto and vehicle-parts factories.
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