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Tough Times On The Horizon For Auto Workers

The United Auto Workers (UAW) work to increase membership while GM attempts an 11th-hour resolution at a Portugal-based plant.

UAW to Begin Drive to Recruit New Workers
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union voted yesterday to tap its $914 million strike fund to pay for recruiting of new members.

The amendment to the union's constitution, approved overwhelmingly by voice vote at the UAW's convention in Las Vegas, allows the international leadership to spend up to $60 million from the strike fund mainly for organizing efforts during the four years between conventions.

UAW membership peaked in 1979 at 1.5 million and now stands at just less than 599,000, according to the union.

The UAW said it has had success recently in organizing workers in health care, on college campuses, at auto dealerships and in the technical, office and professional sectors.

Union growth hasn't been enough to counter the loss of membership due to restructuring, plant closings, outsourcing and privatization, however, according President Ron Gettelfinger said in his opening-day speech Monday.

The union is about to lose thousands more members due to Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp.โ€™s plan to reduce their hourly work forces by 60,000. Delphi Corp., GM's largest supplier, also plans to close 21 of its 29 U.S. plants by 2008 and cut its hourly work force by thousands.

The membership also authorized the union to transfer $50 million from the strike fund to the union's general operating fund. And it voted to increase the dues rebates that locals get when the strike fund exceeds $550 million, giving them more money for operating costs.

Time running out for GM Portugal plant 
A General Motors assembly plant in Portugal is nearing closure, while the U.S. carmaker held 11th-hour rescue talks on Wednesday. Labor leaders have dismissed the recent meeting as northing more than lip service.

Workers at the plant went on strike on earlier this week as concerns grew that the carmaker would shut the factory to cut costs. The plant employs around 1,100 staff and makes Combo delivery vans.

European labor leaders at GM plan a wave of strikes to protest what they say is a drive to shift output and jobs away from more expensive western European plants.

A meeting on Monday failed to bring labor and management closer on GM's demands that Azambuja close a productivity gap that it says makes building vans there $630 per vehicle more expensive than at other potential manufacturing sites.

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