UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is following up his vow to unionize North America's non-Big 3 auto plants by calling for a show of support at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Inc. in Georgetown, Ky.
But the latest push to organize Toyota has a twist: the role of Toyota's temporary workers.
Under new labor law interpretations, 500 temporary factory workers at the Georgetown plant could sway the vote as the UAW solicits employee signatures to call for a union election.
Georgetown employs about 7,500 regular employees, but is using several hundred workers to fill jobs temporarily.
UAW organizers at Georgetown last week distributed fliers and appealed to Toyota's team members to sign cards of support to call for an election.
If the union receives signatures from 50 percent plus one of the work force, the U.S. Labor Department will permit it to hold an election.
Last week's appeal by organizers went out of its way to notify temporary workers that they also could sign the cards.
Most of the non-Big 3 auto plants in the United States are nonunion. Many of them bring in temporary workers during production peaks.
The practice serves as a pressure valve to ease overtime strain. But temps also typically receive the less desirable jobs at a plant, jobs where regular workers may be more likely to become dissatisfied and support a union.
Under the Clinton administration, a change in labor law made it permissible to include temporary factory workers in a union election, under certain circumstances.
That rule change could strengthen the UAW's hand at Toyota. But many of the temporaries are only filling in during the summer to replace vacationing workers, said Rick Hesterberg, a Toyota spokesman at the plant.
It was not clear last week whether Toyota would accept the argument that short-term employees would have a voice in the plant's long-term labor-management relationship.