Bob King was just elected to a four-year term as head of the UAW. He doesn't have to run for election again because he'll retire, so it was surprising to hear what he had to say after his inauguration.
He seems to be going on the warpath.
King's decision to pick on Toyota is hard to understand, except that he's upset that Toyota closed NUMMI after General Motors pulled out of the venture. But he sure is picking the wrong target.
During the financial crisis -- while the Detroit 3 were laying off workers and shutting plants -- Toyota kept workers on their jobs. If they weren't building cars, they were being trained or doing maintenance at factories.
The notion that the UAW can score points with the public by picketing Toyota dealerships across the country is ridiculous. For most people, all that would do is create a bad impression of the UAW, not Toyota.
It's time for the UAW to be supportive, not combative.
There are three major automakers that the union should worry about. The leaders of the UAW should not try to negotiate higher and higher labor rates to make the Detroit 3 noncompetitive again.
Have they forgotten that the UAW is a big shareholder in GM and Chrysler? One of the big problems with ownership is the conflict of interest. Unless those companies and Ford are making profits, there will be a problem getting good wages and benefits. That affects UAW members, whether they are owners or employees.
I had hoped the UAW had learned its lesson and paid attention to the role played by Ron Gettelfinger.
The next few years still will require a statesman leading the UAW to make sure the companies are strong enough to protect the union's investment and jobs.
The companies will sell their stock, but that stock will be valuable only if GM and Chrysler prosper in the meantime.
Like his predecessor, Bob King faces serious challenges. Let's hope he doesn't get too wound up in the rhetoric and forget that, for a while, the future of his union was in doubt.
He should tone down the rhetoric. It doesn't help.