COMP NEWS – Workers at the only Hyundai plant in the U.S. have successfully unionized under the United Auto Workers (UAW), marking another expansion for the country’s largest automaker union.
Thirty percent of the workers at the sole Hyundai plant in the U.S., in Alabama, have joined the United Auto Workers (UAW).
The announcement marks the third such public union drive at an automaker in the Southeast.
And it marks another step in the UAW’s push to make inroads into the region, where big business and state governments have worked together for decades to keep unions out.
In statements to the press, Hyundai workers argued the job was breaking down their bodies and quality of life for inadequate pay.
One worker complained of being written up for taking a scheduled absence to see her son’s basketball game, while others recounted being repeatedly pushed to work with debilitating chronic injuries.
“I’m getting close to retirement and the company has literally broken me down,” said Drena Smith, who has spent nearly two decades in the paint department.
“We need compensation for that when we retire. Not just a cake and a car discount for a car we can’t afford to buy because we won’t have any income. We need a real retirement, we need to win our union.”
The UAW, which has negotiated substantial gains in pay and working conditions over the past year, is pushing for more workers to unionize as a means to win higher pay rates. Workers at the Hyundai plant have argued that the automaker giant has unlawfully suppressed their unionization effort through banning pro-union literature and polling workers about their support.
In December, the UAW drive at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., hit 30 percent of the workforce — a threshold that took their fight to organize the plant public.
Then in January, workers at a Mercedes-Benz facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala., followed suit, complaining of stagnant wages and chronic injury at a company that was experiencing soaring profits.
In public statements put out by the UAW, workers at those plants foreshadowed the complaints given on Thursday by Hyundai workers: That they had been barred from taking time with their families, that their wages had not kept up with the cost of living and that their jobs had led to repeated injury.
The UAW claims that more than 10,000 workers at nonunion plants have signed union cards “in recent months” — which they contend has happened in the face of anti-union campaigns by management.
Workers at the Hyundai plant have complained to the National Labor Review Board that management has been “threatening, restraining and coercing employees from exercising their rights” to organize.
At Hyundai, the workers contended that their managers had banned them from distributing pro-union literature in break rooms, confiscating union pamphlets.
They also argued Hyundai had polled workers about their support for a union — which the NLRB bans in most circumstances.
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