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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

UAW accuses Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen of labor violations

By Neal E. Boudette

The United Automobile Workers union accused three foreign automakers last week of unfair labor practices, asserting that they had interfered with efforts by employees to build support for the union at U.S. plants.

The union said it had filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board contending that the automakers — Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen — had tried to prevent workers from discussing UAW representation at work and that the companies had discriminated against those who had done so.

The action came two weeks after the UAW announced an effort to organize nonunion plants owned by 10 foreign-owned companies, along with domestic manufacturers Tesla, Lucid and Rivian, which make electric vehicles. The union has tried unsuccessfully to unionize some of those companies’ factories in recent years, but not simultaneously on such a wide scale.

The UAW said Monday that hundreds of workers at Honda’s plant in Greensburg, Indiana, and at Hyundai’s plant in Montgomery, Alabama, and more than 1,000 workers at a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, had signed cards expressing support for joining the union.

At Honda, the union said, workers “report being targeted and surveilled by management for pro-union activity,” while at Hyundai, “management has unlawfully confiscated, destroyed and prohibited pro-union materials in nonwork areas during nonwork times.”

It said that Volkswagen “had harassed and threatened workers for talking about the union” and that it had “confiscated and destroyed pro-union materials in the break room,” among other accusations.

In a statement, Volkswagen said that it took such accusations seriously and that it would investigate the matter. “Volkswagen respects our workers’ right to determine who should represent their interests in the workplace,” it said.

Honda said, “We have not and would not interfere with our associates’ right to engage in activity supporting or opposing the UAW.” Hyundai said that the union’s depiction of the matter was not accurate and that its workers “may choose to join a union or not as is their legal right.”

In a statement issued by the union, UAW President Shawn Fain lashed out at the three companies. “These companies are breaking the law in an attempt to get autoworkers to sit down and shut up instead of fighting for their fair share,” he said. “But these workers are showing management that they won’t be intimidated out of their right to speak up and organize for a better life.”

The UAW is trying to organize foreign-owned plants after a six-week wave of strikes against the three Detroit automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, which makes Jeep, Chrysler and other brands — that resulted in contracts providing record wage increases and additional gains in benefits.

In addition to Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen, the foreign companies that the UAW said last week that it was targeting are Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Mazda and Volvo.

The new contracts at Ford, GM and Stellantis raise the top hourly wage to $40 at the end of the 4 1/2-year term, from $32. Hourly wages at foreign automakers in the United States generally range from the high teens to the high 20s.

After the UAW agreements with the Detroit automakers were reached this fall, Honda said it would provide raises of 11% next year, and Hyundai said it would increase pay 14% next year and 25% by 2028. Toyota also announced raises.

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