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King’s new fight against bank has auto implications

David Barkholz covers General Motors Co. for Automotive News
UAW President Bob King today threatened to pull all UAW funds out of JPMorgan Chase Bank if the giant doesn’t declare a temporary moratorium on home foreclosures and get R.J. Reynolds to negotiate with North Carolina farm workers.

So what’s that have to do with the auto industry?

Let me offer this: King is building coalitions with the faith, labor and nonprofit communities nationally. He’s supporting their causes with heartfelt vigor.

But in a pinch, aren’t those groups -- Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, churches and others -- more likely to reciprocate in a UAW fight than if King wasn’t involved in theirs?

King has clearly stated that he intends to organize Toyota, Honda and all the nonunion transplant automakers in the United States. The UAW already is picketing Toyota dealers in California, New York and elsewhere.

He’s going to need foot soldiers to ratchet up the pressure. The UAW’s 450,000 active members and nearly 800,000 auto retirees can only be relied on for so much. They are concentrated in the Midwest and retirement states, not necessarily where the transplants have operations.

King is passionate and genuine on worker and social justice causes. The union is pushing for a broad foreclosure moratorium. And King himself recently visited farm workers in North Carolina trying to organize tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds for better wages and safer working conditions. He believes he can get to R.J. Reynolds through company financier JPMorgan.

Attacking the purse of JPMorgan signals the seriousness and sophistication of King’s stand. That sophistication extends to coalition-building and the organizing pressures that can be brought to bear when allies join forces.

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