Will UAW Seek Foreign Help to Unionize American Workers?

America has a vibrant and successful auto industry — just largely outside of Detroit. For years, many foreign automakers’ American divisions have been successful at making cars profitably, while creating thousands of well-paying jobs. One reason for the foreign automakers’ success has been their ability to work without the burdensome work rules faced by the Big Three under their contracts with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

Apparently, UAW President Bob King doesn’t like that one bit. In fact, he seems to feel so strongly about it that he recently announced that for companies that resist its organizing efforts, the UAW “will launch a global campaign to brand that company a human-rights violator.” What might such a campaign entail?

One indication can be found in the Obama administration’s report to the bad joke known as the U.N. Human Rights Council — whose members include such human rights champions as China, Cuba, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. In the report, submitted in August 2010, the State Department strongly suggests that the degree to which the law facilitates unionization should be a human rights matter — and that the U.S. falls short in that area.

The UAW — or any other union, for that matter — likely would cite the State Department document in any complaint filed to the International Labor Organization, World Trade Organization, or any other international body — maybe even the ridiculous U.N. Human Rights Council. And King’s recent remarks indicate this is an option the UAW might well pursue.

King also recently acknowledged that the UAW is in trouble. Speaking to an audience of 1,000 union members at a Washington political action conference, he said, “If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long term future for the UAW — I really don’t.” With those kind of stakes, it would be surprising for the UAW not to take some drastic action.

The upshot of all this is that we could end up seeing the UAW ask international bodies composed of foreign governments — including some undemocratic ones — for help in unionizing American workers. Stranger things have happened.

For more on labor, see here and here.