Union-shy Hyundai Mobis of Korea will let the UAW conduct a card check after it hires workers for its operations at the Chrysler group's Jeep assembly plant in Toledo.
Mobis is one of three suppliers that will handle the paint, chassis and body operations at the Jeep Wrangler plant under construction. The joint assembly operation is the first of its kind in the United States.
Although Mobis has avoided unions by hiring contract employees at its Korean plants, Mobis Chairman Park Jeong In says, "We will follow the culture and custom of the United States."
No date has been set for the card check, Park said in an interview.
Mobis will send eight staff members from Korea to Toledo and expects to hire 230 people there, Park says. Mobis will make modules that include the frame, engine, transmission, steering, suspension, axles and other parts.
Kuka Group, another supplier at Toledo, also expects a card check to determine whether its workers want UAW representation.
In a card check, workers receive a card on which to indicate whether they want to be represented by a union. Union officials favor card checks, believing that they are less susceptible to employers' anti-union campaigns than secret elections.
Bargaining may begin after the results are certified by the National Labor Relations Board. But a company can dispute the card check results, forcing a secret election.
In Toledo, employees of each of the three suppliers must bargain separate labor agreements if they vote for a union. The third supplier is Haden International Group.
"Each of these three suppliers has indicated a willingness to recognize the UAW," says Ed Saenz, Chrysler group spokesman. "But they will negotiate directly themselves."
While Mobis has agreed to cooperate in a UAW card-check process in the United States, the company has found a way to sidestep problems with organized labor in Korea. Most of Mobis' assembly line workers in Korea are contract workers, hired through private labor-contracting agencies.
Mobis is investing $35 million in Toledo. Mobis opened its first U.S. manufacturing operation, a plant in Alabama to service the Hyundai Motor Co. assembly project there, in May.
Larry Drake, CEO of Kuka, says the company's contract with Chrysler does not mandate UAW representation. Pre-determining an employee's union representation is a violation of federal law, he says.
Kuka, which is based in Clinton Township, Mich., will build and operate a 250,000-square-foot body shop in Toledo. Haden International will run the paint shop.
Different pay scales
The deal calls for Kuka's and Haden's employee compensation to match that of Chrysler's hourly workers in the plant.
A card check at Kuka is expected, Drake says.
Mobis' chassis employees will receive wages and benefits lower than those at Kuka and Haden, working at rates that prevail at competitive unionized supplier plants.
Construction is underway at the Toledo plant. Production is expected to begin in August 2006.
The UAW and Haden International Group did not respond to calls for comment.