The UAW will not select in advance a U.S. automotive company as a strike target in 1999 national contract negotiations, UAW President Steve Yokich said.
Instead, the union will negotiate simultaneously with more than one company as it did in 1996 labor talks, Yokich told the Automotive News World Congress.
Until 1996, the UAW singled out one company to establish an industrywide contract pattern.
But by keeping pattern-setting talks alive at more than one company, the UAW gains flexibility and bargaining clout.
Automakers vie to set the industry pattern and craft a contract advantageous to their own operations.
'If you want to be the lead company, put a good offer on the table,' Yokich said, noting that General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG are profitable and healthy.
The UAW's relationship with GM and DaimlerChrysler is in flux as the union begins preparing to replace the national agreement that expires in September.
GM and the UAW must overcome the acrimonious legacy of strikes last summer that, Yokich said, 'nobody won.'
Improved labor relations have to start in the chairman's office and be embraced throughout the organization, he said.
'I really do think (GM Chairman) Jack Smith is sincere,' Yokich said. 'I don't think Jack Smith is the problem. It's a whole host of middle managers. I've told him that.'
In February, Yokich attends his first meeting of the DaimlerChrysler supervisory board. He lauded the social-minded consciousness of German businesses.
'I hope to learn from the cooperative efforts between management and the union,' he said.
Yokich wants the merger to create pressures that will curb 'runaway' salaries paid to U.S. auto executives.
The average U.S. CEO is paid '728 times more than the minimum wage worker,' he said, adding that the minimum wage would total $41 an hour had it kept pace with CEO salaries in recent years.
The merger is good for Chrysler workers, Yokich said. 'You can only do so many niche cars. If the truck market died today, what would happen to Chrysler? It's good for both companies.'
He bypassed comment on GM's Project Yellowstone, which would shrink the unionized work force at two 21st century assembly plants.
'I am not going to make a decision on Yellowstone without knowing the facts,' Yokivh said. 'I am not going to talk about Yellowstone until I sit down and talk to the people who are involved.'