February 9, 2006

UAW Splinter Group May Have Cost Western Michigan a Multibillion-Dollar Toyota Plant

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:56 pm

I first heard about this from a caller into Rush’s show yesterday (guested hosted by Roger Hedgecock) and found the story — A Grand Rapids TV station reported Wednesday that Toyota may not build a multibillion-dollar plant in Michigan, essentially because of the “leadership” of one guy and his UAW splinter group:

An auto analyst in on the decision tells 24 Hour News 8 the reason is because of an unauthorized demonstration in Detroit, led by a militant splinter group from within the United Auto Workers Union. The result of that protest is Toyota looking elsewhere.

Dr. David Cole, the chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, says he was standing in Cobo Center in Detroit with several Toyota executives on the opening day of the North American International Auto Show when a UAW demonstration appeared across the street.

The rally wasn’t an authorized union gathering. UAW member Greg Shotwell of Coopersville, a worker at the Delphi plant there, organized it. Shotwell calls his group SOS, or Soldiers For Solidarity. (actually Soldiers OF Solidarity–Ed.)

Cole told 24 Hour News 8 that upon learning Shotwell was from West Michigan the group from Toyota dropped West Michigan from the list.

“The message is that the UAW can’t control its own people,” Cole said.

The TV station’s web site has a four-minute embedded video of the story that relays off-camera comments from Shotwell and a conversation with a UAW official about Shotwell and member discipline.

This Detroit Free Press article in advance of the Auto Show discussed and quoted Shotwell (bolds are mine):

In recent years, Gregg Shotwell, the Soldiers of Solidarity leader and an hourly machine operator at Delphi’s fuel injector plant in Coopersville, has rebuked the UAW leadership at national conventions and other key meetings.

Shotwell, a short and slender 55-year-old man with a knack for persuasive writing and delivering speeches, has held several weekend meetings discussing strike strategies in union halls and hotel conference rooms in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and New York.

“People say, ‘If you strike and GM goes bankrupt, aren’t you biting the hand that feeds you?’ ” Shotwell said. “We’re not biting the hand that feeds us. We’re biting the hand that slapped us in the face, that defeated and robbed us.

“First we’re going to bite the hand and then we’re going to go for the throat.”

Charming. There are 47 other states in the continental US. Can you blame Toyota if they decide they just don’t want to deal with the likes of Shotwell and company in Michigan?

(Aside: I’m not going to sit here and claim the management side of the Delphi, GM, Ford, and Chrysler are covering themselves in glory. There’s plenty of blame to spread around.)

Grand Rapids Pundit says: “The UAW is doing its best to ensure that Michigan’s economy continues to rank as the nation’s worst.” I would amend that and point only to the militants — for now. But if the SOS brand of inflexible thinking and confrontation carries the day inside the union, the portion of the US auto industry that is under collective-bargaining agreements (a large percentage of which is of course in economically troubled Michigan) is heading for a major crack-up.
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UPDATE: Here’s a mid-January report that Toyota was at the time seriously considering a Western Michigan plant and that the area was supposedly on its “A list.”
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