Thousands of autoworkers at more than a dozen non-union automakers have launched simultaneous campaigns across the country this week to join the United Auto Workers following the record wage increases won from the Big Three, the union said Wednesday.
In total, the organizing effort will cover nearly 150,000 autoworkers, according to the UAW. At least thirteen automakers would be represented, including Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz.
“To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn,” UAW president Shawn Fain said in a video message posted Wednesday on the union’s website.
The organizing drive comes after the UAW launched a new website encouraging non-union autoworkers to sign cards signaling their intent to join its ranks. The UAW currently represents around 146,000 autoworkers at the Big Three.
In the video message posted on the UAW website Wednesday, Fain singled out automakers Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru and Mazda, as well as EV companies Tesla, Rivian and Lucid for their non-union workforces.
Fain said that Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru and Mazda made twice as much as the Big Three, with $470 billion in combined profits over the last decade. He added that 40% of these profits came from their North America operations and their workers should be getting a bigger cut of these record profits.
“You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck,” said Fain in the video message. “You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay your rent or feed your family while the company makes billions. A better life is out there.”
One of the biggest of these campaigns to join the UAW is at Toyota’s assembly complex in Kentucky, which employs more than 8,000 team members and builds the popular Camry sedan and RAV-4 SUV for the U.S. market. The plant is the world’s largest Toyota production facility.
Toyota announced earlier this month it will raise hourly worker wages by 9% following the historic labor agreements between the Big Three and the UAW.
In a video message to Stellantis employees on Nov. 2, Fain cited the historic labor agreements with the Big Three as the reason for Toyota’s decision to raise wages for its U.S. hourly workers. He also encouraged Toyota workers to organize and demand even more.
“Toyota has made a quarter of a trillion dollars in profit in the past decade,” the UAW wrote on its new union organization website. “Profits are up 30%. CEO Pay is up 125%. Meanwhile, Toyota has offered just a 9% raise to convince Toyota workers not to organize. It’s time for Toyota workers to stand up and fight for more.”
The UAW also claims that many non-union automakers, including Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz, use a mix of full-time, temporary and contract employees to divide the workforce and keep wages low. The lower wages result in excessive employee turnover as workers seek better opportunities, according to the union.
“The company is having trouble hiring people,” Jeremy Kimbrell, a machine operator at the Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa assembly plant in Alabama, said in a UAW web post. “It’s just a revolving door. A whole lot of people who never talked union before, they know we have to stand up. They’re saying ‘give me a card to sign.’”
Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and Subaru have all announced plans to raise wages for hourly workers in the U.S., following the 9% wage hike by Toyota. Several experts anticipated that non-union, foreign-owned automakers would feel pressure to raise wages once the UAW negotiated its new labor contracts with the Big Three.