DETROIT -- The president of the group representing import brand auto dealers today blasted UAW President Bob King in response to King's call for union supporters to picket Toyota Motor Corp.'s U.S. dealerships.
Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, released a statement that called King's remarks ‘inflammatory' and said “attacking small businesses” is detrimental to helping the UAW increase its membership.
In his inaugural speech this week at the UAW national convention, King accused Toyota of closing its New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory in Fremont, Calif., because hourly workers there were represented by the UAW.
“We're going to pound on Toyota until they recognize the First Amendment rights of their workers to come into the UAW,” King said.
In the release, Lusk said the UAW should find a way to build membership without “hindering business at a randomly chosen Toyota dealership.”
“A picket line will only hurt the dealership, its employees and the community it serves,” he said. “An assault on America's auto retail industry will only serve to highlight the disconnect between the UAW and reality.” The NUMMI plant was owned by the Japanese automaker and General Motors Co., but GM pulled out of the venture as part of its government-sponsored bankruptcy reorganization last year. It was the only Toyota plant in the United States that employed UAW members. King said the automaker engaged in “anti-union” behavior and criticized Toyota President Akio Toyoda for closing the NUMMI plant while restarting construction on a nonunion assembly plant in Blue Springs, Miss.
“Our No. 1 fight with Toyota is to give those workers the choice,” King said. “Not for Toyota to make the choice … to fire workers and to threaten to close plants.”
In his speech, King said the union would fight to win back wages and benefits lost during the recession.
He said increasing membership and organization efforts would allow the union to achieve more cross-industry leverage in bargaining.
King said the union aims to be as powerful as in the past, representing 70 to 80 percent of the auto, aerospace and agricultural sectors. To achieve higher membership, the union must support organizing efforts in the U.S. plants of Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen.
King said more automotive suppliers needed to be organized to ensure that unionized suppliers are not put at a cost disadvantage to nonunion shops. He said the UAW needed to be more vocal and would not regain their lost concessions simply “by saying no to the bosses.”
After his speech, King led more than 1,000 members down Detroit's banking district in a protest march against Wall Street lending practices. The AIADA represents 10,000 dealers selling 29 import brands in the United States. Group members have sold 2.53 million light vehicles so far this year, the organization says.
David Barkholz contributed to this report.