United Auto Workers president Bob King said that members and retirees of the union have started demonstrating at Toyota dealerships to pressure the automaker to allow the unionization of its U.S. plants and to protest Toyota’s closing this year of the NUMMI plant in Fremont, California.
Speaking Monday, July 12, on the sidelines of a press conference in Detroit with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and several Detroit-area pastors, King said the informational pickets have begun at Toyota dealerships in California and New York. King said those demonstrations, which he termed “bannering,” would continue.
“California is probably the largest place,” he said. “But I was in New York three weeks ago, and a local union was bannering.”
King did not indicate which dealerships were being picketed and did not say how many such efforts were planned. The union has organized other protests in California over the NUMMI plant closing.
NUMMI, which stands for New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., was shut down after Toyota’s partner, General Motors, pulled out of the joint venture as part of GM’s bankruptcy reorganization. Electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. plans to reopen the plant and hire 1,000 workers.
When King revealed plans last month to picket Toyota dealerships, Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, called King’s remarks “inflammatory” and said that “attacking small businesses” is detrimental to helping the UAW increase its membership.
“A picket line will only hurt the dealership, its employees and the community it serves,” Lusk said in a statement. “An assault on America’s auto retail industry will only serve to highlight the disconnect between the UAW and reality.”
Jackson was at the UAW headquarters to kick off the formation of a coalition involving the UAW, Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, other concerned unions and organizations to fight for jobs, fair trade and urban revitalization.
He said the coalition is organizing an August 28 march in Detroit to mark the beginning of a campaign for jobs, justice and peace.
Jackson said he “absolutely” supported the UAW’s efforts to organize Toyota and the other transplant automakers in the United States that so far have resisted attempts to unionize their workforces. He did not indicate whether Rainbow PUSH would be enlisted to help the UAW with its organizing fight.
King said community support for the UAW’s organizing campaigns would be a byproduct of the broader campaign for jobs and social justice. He said the more that organizations fight side by side for societal causes, the more likely that they are to support one another in specific fights.
When elected UAW president in June, King promised that he would bring a more activist tone to the union. “The greatest anti-poverty tool there is, is a strong union,” he said.
Jackson said the Detroit march would be a precursor for a massive march in Washington scheduled for October 2. He alluded to a similar march in 1963 in Detroit that preceded Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.