OPINION: UAW organizing Troy Toyota benefits workers, community

Publisher Emeritus

The United Auto Workers (UAW) is striving to bring the benefits and protections of a union contract to the Toyota workers in Troy, Mo. In response, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce has launched a distortion campaign to discourage them from joining the UAW.

In its April 5 op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Unionization is a bad deal for Toyota workers in Troy,” the Chamber spewed misinformation from its Big Business “destroy-unions” playbook:

Chamber: “With unions comes the possibility of strikes.” An overblown threat. When workers get ground down by heedless management and see managerial salaries soar while their families suffer, a strike is an option. But, of over 14 million union workers in the U.S., only three percent of them went on strike last year. And, with tens of thousands of union contracts in place across America, only 33 strikes occurred, 87 percent of them in the service industries.

Chamber: Pay raise goals of the UAW are “unlikely to mean much (as) Toyota … already pays high wages… competitive with the market. Really?  It was only after the UAW reached a tentative agreement with the Big Three automakers following a weeks-long strike that suddenly Toyota announced it would increase wages at its U.S. factories by nine percent. Wonder when the last time its workers got a nine percent raise?

In new Big Three contracts, however, the UAW won immediate wage boosts of 11%, with a total of 25 percent  increases over the 4.5 years of the contract for the highest paid; up to 160 percent increases for the lowest paid! Nine percent – nice – but certainly NOT “competitive with the market.”

The Big Three victories not only helped Toyota workers, but according to the Washington Post, “Honda, Hyundai, and Subaru announce[d] significant wage increases as well.” Way to go UAW!

• Chamber: “Toyota… increases pay to keep up with cost-of-living increases… the UAW locks in rates for four-year contracts.”
The Chamber neglected to mention the “UAW contract also restored regular cost-of-living wage adjustments to offset inflation and… increased the companies’ contributions to 401(k) accounts to equal 10 percent of a worker’s wages. They also offer more paid time off.“ (Washington Post)

• Chamber: “Multiple UAW officials were prosecuted for … illegal payments, etc.”
Yes they were, and they went to jail, prosecuted by their union.

Any organization can have bad apples. The Labor Movement has had some, too. But consider this: the Department of Labor notes that, with over 200,000 elected union officials, there are about 200 investigations a year with only 40 convictions over the past five years. Compare that to the latest 2022 FBI crime stats – businesses alone saw 17,627 charges of embezzlement and 47,907 charges of fraud. The ratio of bad apples in unions vs. business makes this Chamber point laughable. When we find bad apples in our unions, we toss them out.

Culminating their distortions, the Chamber brings up the old bogeyman: union dues.

• Chamber: “Once unionized, workers will be turning over a portion of their hard-earned paychecks in union dues.” Union dues are 2.5 hours of pay a month, about $80 for the typical autoworker on the production line, and about $95 for a skilled worker. At wages of about $32 an hour (not including benefits!) the average union auto worker is earning over $5,000 a month for an $80 investment. Their union membership also gets them an on-the-job representative to protect their rights from abusive management, a pension, company-paid health benefits, paid vacation, etc. Not a bad investment! I’d call it quality “job insurance.”

• In conclusion, the Chamber claims: “….there’s nothing positive the UAW can offer that isn’t here already.”  LOL!!

Without even being at the plant, the UAW won raises for Troy Toyota workers. Keep in mind Toyota didn’t voluntarily give the raises (although their valued employees deserved them), they did it because the UAW won big raises at the Big Three and Toyota was afraid of losing their workers to those jobs.

The UAW’s success benefits the entire Troy community, as higher paychecks mean more money flowing into the community’s businesses. Wentzville, where the UAW represents GM workers, is one of the fastest growing communities in Missouri.  Its expanding business base is being fueled by UAW wages! More prosperity all around!

Troy Toyota workers can win protection and dignity on the job, bigger paychecks and better health care… and most importantly, job security… by first signing a UAW authorization card and then voting “for” the UAW when an election rolls around, hopefully soon.

When that happens, the new newspaper headline will read:

“Unionization is a great deal for Toyota workers in Troy.”

(Ed Finkelstein is the publisher emeritus, of the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune, the official weekly newspaper of the AFL-CIO unions in our bi-state region.)

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This Op-Ed was originally printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 11, 2024. The following is additional information not included in the original article)

Darin Gilley, UAW Local 2250:
“They love to bring up Union dues. A friend of mine at the plant likes to talk about non-union dues. Non-union dues are the higher health insurance deductibles, premiums, and co-pays. How many folks pay hundreds of dollars every month for their ‘employer provided’ insurance? The concept applies to other parts of the benefit package as well. Compared to union dies the nonunion dues are much more costly.

“I also can’t help but shake my head when the Chamber expresses concern for the community. The national Chamber has supported every free trade deal ever presented. The same deals that have destroyed American manufacturing and hollowed out communities all over the country.

“Thank you for writing this, it reveals their hypocrisy and the weakness of their argument!”

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