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UAW optimistic about growth as economy revives

04.15.10

UAW optimistic about growth as economy revives

BY BRENT SNAVELY
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

http://www.freep.com/article/20100415/BUSINESS01/4150401/1207/Business0104/UAW-optimistic-about-growth-as-economy-revives

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said Wednesday that he is hopeful the UAW can reverse its declining membership as the economy recovers and the nation’s labor laws are changed.

Gettelfinger said industry sales are off to a good start in April and he believes that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler and the industry at large are on a path to recovery.

“We’re right on the verge of having 12 million in vehicle sales” for 2010, Gettelfinger said during a speech at Wayne State University. That would be a big improvement from 10.4 million in 2009, the U.S. industry’s lowest sales in nearly 30 years.

Gettelfinger, whose second and final term ends in June, has guided the union through a retrenchment during which membership fell to 355,191, a post-World War II low.

He is both praised and blamed for convincing UAW members to accept concessions on contracts the union fought for decades to win in an effort to prevent General Motors and Chrysler from failing.

Many Americans still want to join unions, Gettelfinger said, but U.S. laws make it difficult to organize. Employers can delay certification votes and even threaten workers with recriminations or even firing.

In 2007, he said 58,000 U.S. workers voted to join a union. Two years later, 37% of those workers were still without a labor contract with their employer.

The proposed Employee Free Choice Act would allow a union to be certified to bargain with an employer if it collects signatures from a majority of the workers.

However, James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Wednesday that passing the legislation, commonly known as card check, will be difficult because Republicans can block the bill unless the Democrats have 60 votes in the U.S. Senate. After Massachusetts voters elected Republican Scott Brown to succeed the late Democrat Ted Kennedy, Democrats can count on only 59 votes in the Senate.

Contact BRENT SNAVELY: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com

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