Six Southern Republican Governors Warn of UAW’s Unionization of Auto Sector

‘We’ve seen it play out this way every single time a foreign automaker plant has been unionized; not one of those plants remains in operation,” they said.
Six Southern Republican Governors Warn of UAW’s Unionization of Auto Sector
Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 230 and their supporters walk the picket line in front of the Chrysler Corporate Parts Division in Ontario, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully
4/17/2024
Updated:
4/17/2024
0:00

Six Republican governors from southern states are warning against unionization of the auto industry by the United Auto Workers (UAW), saying that this puts their “states’ jobs in jeopardy.”

The governors “are highly concerned about the unionization campaign driven by misinformation and scare tactics that the UAW has brought into our states,” they said in a joint statement on April 16.

“The experience in our states is when employees have a direct relationship with their employers, that makes for a more positive working environment.

“They can advocate for themselves and what is important to them without outside influence. The UAW has come in making big promises to our constituents that they can’t deliver on.

“And we have serious reservations that the UAW leadership can represent our values. They proudly call themselves democratic socialists and seem more focused on helping President Biden get reelected than on the autoworker jobs being cut at plants they already represent.”

The UAW has formally endorsed President Joe Biden for the 2024 election.

Signatories of the statement include Governors Bill Lee of Tennessee, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, and Greg Abbott of Texas.

The statement came a day before employees at a Tennessee Volkswagen factory were to vote on whether to join the UAW. The labor group is also targeting a dozen factories in the South as part of its unionization efforts.

The governors pointed out that auto manufacturers have “choices” when it comes to where to invest their money and hire people. Unionization would “certainly put our states’ jobs in jeopardy,” they said.

“We’ve seen it play out this way every single time a foreign automaker plant has been unionized; not one of those plants remains in operation. And we are seeing it in the fallout of the Detroit Three strike with those automakers rethinking investments and cutting jobs.”

“Detroit Three strike” refers to protests by UAW union members against General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford last year. After several weeks of agitation, the three automakers agreed to raise wages and provide other worker benefits.

However, things subsequently took a turn.

Speaking at a conference in February, Ford CEO Jim Farley suggested the company may have to rethink its “manufacturing footprint” in the United States following the UAW strike.
In December, GM said it would lay off 1,300 workers in Michigan in 2024. Stellantis announced in March it intends to cut down 400 salaried workers in the United States as part of its cost-cutting strategy and to boost efficiency.
The governors stressed that they want to keep growing the American auto manufacturing sector and retain good-paying jobs in the industry. A unionization drive would stop such efforts and harm American workers, they warned.

UAW Targets 13 Companies

After the UAW ratified new contracts with the Detroit Three last year, the labor group revealed plans to extend unionization to more automakers across the United States.

In November, the UAW  said that the drive would cover almost 150,000 autoworkers employed at 13 companies—BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Rivian, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

“To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn,” UAW president Shawn Fein said at the time.

“Since we began our Stand Up Strike, the response from autoworkers at non-union companies has been overwhelming. Workers across the country, from the West to the Midwest and especially in the South, are reaching out to join our movement and to join the UAW.”

“The money is there. The time is right. And the answer is simple. You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay your rent or feed your family while the company makes billions. A better life is out there.”

Later in December, workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant in Tennessee announced a unionization effort, with workers set to vote on April 17. Employees at the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, are also scheduled to vote from April 17 to April 19 on whether to join the UAW.

In February, the UAW announced plans to spend $40 million to organize auto and battery industry workers over the next couple of years.

During the UAW strike against the Detroit Three last year, Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford warned that such strikes threatened the U.S. auto industry. He raised concerns that high labor costs can curtail the company’s ability to invest in manufacturing facilities and develop new vehicles.

“It’s the absolute lifeblood of our company. And if we lose it, we will lose to the competition. America loses. Many jobs will be lost,” he said while pointing out that several competitors have outsourced jobs to cheaper Mexico.

A Feb. 20 report from the Alliance for American Manufacturing said that Mexico posed a significant threat to the American auto industry, acting as a launchpad for cheaper Chinese electric vehicles to enter the United States.

“The introduction of cheap Chinese autos–which are so inexpensive because they are backed with the power and funding of the Chinese government–to the American market could end up being an extinction-level event for the U.S. auto sector, whose centrality in the national economy is unimpeachable,” the group warned.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.
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