By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT Jan 15 United Auto Workers President
Bob King said on Wednesday that he is confident the U.S. union
will be able to organize workers at the Volkswagen AG
plant in Tennessee by the time he leaves office in
King said talks with Volkswagen officials are continuing
apace, but he did not say when or if a vote by the plant's
workers will be held.
A source familiar with the thinking of the Volkswagen board
in Germany has said the board will want a worker vote to
recognize the UAW as its U.S. union representative.
King, speaking at a conference held in connection with the
Detroit auto show, also said he is confident that UAW members
will approve a proposed 25-percent dues increase at the union's
convention in June.
This would be the first increase, from two hours per month
of worker pay, since 1967. The proposal is to add a half hour of
pay per month that will go directly into the union's strike
fund, which King said he will propose be changed to the "strike
and defense fund."
King said that members have been shielded from dues
increases because the union has been able to dip into its strike
fund to finance attempts to organize the U.S. plants of foreign
The strike fund has fallen to just over $600 million from a
peak of $1 billion, said King, and he wants to get it back to
the billion-dollar level.
"If our strike fund gets too low, then that's going to
encourage corporations, I think, to force more confrontations,"
King told reporters.
King said he did not expect the 2015 contract negotiations
with the three large U.S. automakers to be more difficult than
they were in 2011. However, he also said that the fact that
Michigan became a right-to-work state last year will cause
problems in the talks.
"Honestly, it will make this set of negotiations tougher,
not easier," King said after his prepared remarks at an
Automotive News conference.
Michigan's right-to-work law, which bans making union
membership a condition of employment, is similar to those
already in effect in 23 other states.
King, as he has in the past, said he wants to eliminate the
two-tier wage scale that pays entry-level workers less than
veteran UAW-represented employees of General Motors Co,
Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group LLC, a unit of Fiat SpA
"The majority of entry-level workers that I've talked to
understand that they need a strong union to be able to fix that
over a period of time and they understand that it's not going to
happen in one contract," King told reporters.