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Senate Democrats Warn Auto Makers to Not Interfere With Sweeping UAW Union Drive

The lawmakers raised concern that some automakers have already engaged in illegal anti-union moves.

United Auto Worker members stand in a picket line outside of the Ford Motor Co. Kentucky Truck Plant in the morning hours on October 14, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky.

A group of 33 Senate Democrats is pressuring over a dozen major auto manufacturers not to interfere with their workers’ union campaigns as the United Auto Workers undertake a historic drive to unionize at every non-unionized automaker in the U.S.

On Wednesday, lawmakers sent a letter to the CEOs of 13 non-unionized auto manufacturers with U.S. plants, urging them to agree to neutrality agreements, or pledges to remain neutral in the union drive, and to allow workers to exercise their right to form a union as they see fit. They also raised concern over reports that some of the auto companies have already begun taking actions to quash the campaign.

“We believe a neutrality agreement is the bare minimum standard manufacturers should meet in respecting workers’ rights, especially as companies receive and benefit from federal funds related to the electric vehicle transition,” the senators wrote.

The lawmakers were led by Senators Gary Peters (D-Michigan), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Alex Padilla (D-California), Laphonza Butler (D-California) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The letter was signed by all but 17 Senate Democratic caucus members, with support from prominent lawmakers like Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).

“All workers, no matter what states they live in, should have a free and unhindered opportunity to join a union,” the senators continued. “We strongly urge you to implement a neutrality agreement at your plants and commit to negotiating in good faith if your employees do elect to unionize with the UAW.”

Late last year, after securing record contracts with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis following six weeks of rolling strikes at all three companies, the UAW announced that it was launching a campaign to unionize every non-unionized automaker in the U.S. The ambitious drive is one of the largest single union campaigns in history, with the goal of bringing 150,000 new members across 13 automakers into the union.

The automakers being targeted by UAW are BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Rivian, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Just weeks into the UAW campaign, the union has already filed complaints with federal labor officials alleging illegal anti-union moves from several of the automakers. Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen have all engaged in union busting, the union said in their complaints; Honda by targeting employees for union-related activity, Hyundai for confiscating and destroying union materials, and Volkswagen for threatening workers over discussing the union.

UAW President Shawn Fain thanked lawmakers for their effort to support the union drive.

“Every autoworker in this country deserves their fair share of the auto industry’s record profits, whether at the Big Three or the Non-Union Thirteen,” Fain said in a statement. “It’s time for the auto companies to stop breaking the law and take their boot off the neck of the American autoworker, whether they’re at Volkswagen, Toyota, Tesla, or any other corporation doing business in this country.”

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