Can the UAW Be Owner and Representative?

Interesting times we live in… the UAW is finding itself increasingly at odds with it’s members over the negotiated but not yet approved Ford labor agreement.  

On Sunday, 92 percent of workers at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant voted against proposed contract changes. The vote there came after a stormy meeting at nearby Winnetonka High School where UAW Vice President Bob King, head of the union’s national Ford section, made an appeal to workers to support the agreement, which was negotiated by the UAW and Ford earlier this month.

[From Ford workers in Sterling Heights reject concessions | | The Detroit News]

The main issue that workers are objecting to is the no strike clause in the proposed agreement. This same clause was instrumental in securing the Chrysler takeover by Fiat, which the UAW now owns 55% of, and ensures that Fiat will not face union work stoppages until at least 2015.

This brings about an interesting question, can the UAW be both an owner of car companies and a representative of the employees at the same time? The entire UAW strategy to date has been to establish a common labor agreement across all U.S. car companies (no foreign company has a UAW plant except for the joint venture between GM and Toyota in Fremont, Nummi, and that is going to shut down, according to Toyota).

With the UAW ownership stakes in GM and Chrysler, the pattern agreement strategy appears to be thrown under the bus and if so would the labor agreements with GM and Chrysler put Ford, with no UAW ownership, at a competitive disadvantage? It’s not like this administration is going to do anything under the guise of antitrust given their complicity in the current state of affairs, but one has to wonder if this is ultimately an anticompetitive scheme set up by the UAW and government that will be applied against Ford in the name of leveling the field.