Honda: Alabama Plant Doesn't Need Union

Managers sent employees a letter saying forming a union would ''radically change'' operations of the automaker.

LINCOLN, Ala. (AP) — Faced with a United Auto Workers campaign to organize workers at Alabama's Honda plant, managers have sent employees a letter saying forming a union would ''radically change'' operations of the automaker, which employs about 4,500 people in Talladega County.
 
The letter, reported Tuesday by The Birmingham News, marked the first time the company has spoken out against the month-old UAW effort at the $1.4 billion factory.
 
''We believe the evidence shows union operations are not as strong and secure as what we enjoy at (Honda),'' human resources manager Linda Bailey wrote in a letter to employees dated Sept. 10.
 
Honda spokesman Mark Morrison said the letter was sent because the company wants to keep employees informed. A previous communication from the automaker to employees urged them not to let the UAW campaign become a distraction.
 
''Last week, we did send a letter to our associates explaining we believe a union is unnecessary at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama,'' Morrison said. ''The bottom line: we must continue to focus on building high-quality products that our customers want to buy.''
 
Sheila Boyd, who was among a group of Honda workers who approached the UAW last year, said she believes Honda officials stepped over the line with the letter.
 
''We feel as if Honda is trying to threaten us by saying a union might lead the plant to close or force layoffs,'' Boyd said. ''It's just an intimidation tactic, but we aren't backing down.''
 
Two hours to the west in Tuscaloosa County, the union is trying a third time to gain enough support for a union vote at the Mercedes-Benz plant. The UAW effort comes despite a separate effort by the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, which last month jump-started a stalled campaign to represent 3,000 Mercedes production workers.
 
Don Barker, lead organizer for the Machinists' effort at Mercedes, said he has no problem with the UAW campaign targeting the German automaker's Alabama operations. An AFL-CIO arbitrator ruled last year that both unions can seek to organize the plant.
 
Mercedes spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald said the company is not getting involved in the union effort.
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