Auto union targets Alabama

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The United Auto Workers labor union is contemplating ways to infiltrate Alabama's automotive industry.

Representatives with the group reached out to Hyundai Motors Manufacturing America (HMMA) employees several months ago.

Critics of the labor union include a chorus of Republican state lawmakers including Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R – Montgomery).

"My constituents who work for Hyundai and others are already paid very well" Brewbaker said. "I just don't think that sounds like a group of employees who are going to feel the need to give a part of their salary to the UAW or any other union."

The UAW is based in Detroit. A spokesperson for the organization said its new president has made it clear during public appearances that the union wants to explore organizing the labor at the "transnational automotive companies." The president, Bob King, was referring to European and Asian auto manufacturers which have established manufacturing operations in the United States without labor unions.

Honda, Mercedes, and Hyundai each have manufacturing plants in Alabama. Parts supplies for Kia Motors' plant in Georgia are also in East Alabama.

In an August 2010 speech King said, "We respect not only the employers with whom we have relationships, but we also have enormous respect for the transnational companies who have built factories in the United States. We welcome you as partners and colleagues in the industry."

Robert Burns, a spokesperson for HMMA, indicated it would be up to "team members" or employees to decide whether they wanted to get involved with the UAW and have them participate with the company as a third party.

"It's a decision of the team members" Burns said. "But again we feel like the working relationship of offering mutual respect delivers the kind of work environment that the team members would like."

Burns also said the higher level of wages, health insurance benefits, as well as non-wage related incentives like dinners and awards offered by Hyundai are the kinds of things that would keep "team members" devoted to the company and not a labor union.

Alabama is a "right to work" state which means the state has no requirements for membership in a labor union in order to be a part of a certain industries.

If the UAW were to develop a following in Alabama, it would be entirely voluntary on the behalf of employees and there would be no additional obligation for workers of any of Alabama's automotive plants to join.

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