UAW Likely to Focus on Big Three Negotiations Before Continuing to Organize Southern Auto Manufacturers

The United Autoworkers Union will likely not seek another NLRB election in the South until after renegotiating the 2015 contracts for the Big Three automakers in Detroit. After those negotiations end, UAW will probably be in a better position to have unorganized southern autoworkers buy what the union is selling. The success of the UAW negotiations will largely hinge on workers receiving a wage increase and whether the union strikes to get that increase.

One of the reasons the Volkswagen workers voted against representation was because their starting wages were higher than the UAW workers paid under a two-tier wage structure. Dennis Williams, the new UAW President, has already said that the union will take steps to eliminate the two-tier system. An obvious goal for the union will be to obtain wages and benefits at or above those offered by the southern auto manufacturers – even if the UAW needs to strike to get what it wants.

The UAW – the most valuable union in the country with nearly $1B in assets – has a massive strike and defense fund that has not been significantly utilized since the 1970s. But, while striking may get the contract terms the UAW wants from the Big Three, it may have negative repercussions from the southern auto workers who believe that the union had a hand in bankrupting Detroit. Southern autoworkers will closely watch any strike activity and negative, harmful effects it has on the strikers’ families and community, which may permanently turn them against the UAW.

The factors at play both at and away from the bargaining table will make the UAW / Big Three labor negotiations some of the most challenging and widely-followed negotiations ever.