UAW pickets Hyundai dealerships in support of fired Korean worker

1:27 PM, November 30, 2011

UAW members are picketing at 75 Hyundai dealerships around the U.S. today, in support of a Korean worker they say was fired for reporting sexual harassment.

The informational picketing, which includes passing out flyers and holding up signs, is scheduled to occur from noon to 1 p.m. in the local time zones of selected dealerships, UAW spokeswoman Michele Martin said.

Four of those dealerships are in metro Detroit. They are: Glassman Hyundai in Southfield, Feldman Hyundai in Waterford, Suburban Hyundai in Troy and Crest Hyundai in Macomb Township.

“The UAW has embraced a global vision of social justice and will mobilize its membership to defend labor rights here and in other parts of the world,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement.

King also has said his goal is to try to organize a foreign automaker’s workers in the U.S., and Hyundai is expected to be one of the automakers in the running for the organizing drive.

But Martin said today’s informational picketing is to show solidarity with the Korean Metal Workers Union’s global day of action in support of the fired Hyundai worker.

“We haven’t chosen a target yet,” Martin said.

The worker, who is employed by a Hyundai subcontractor, was fired after she reported the sexual harassment in 2010 to Korea’s National Human Rights Commission, Martin said.

The commission ruled in the worker’s favor and ordered the subcontractor to pay damages and rehire the worker, but the subcontractor has refused, Martin said.

The worker has held a vigil in Seoul since June, Martin said.

Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson said the female worker was an employee of a subcontractor at Glovis, a Hyundai affiliate. “Thus, the issue has nothing to do with Hyundai Motor Company,” he said in an e-mail.

“We are not able to comment further.”

Last week the UAW said it could use protests at dealerships that sell foreign cars as part of a campaign to organize workers Asian and German automakers with U.S. assembly plants.

Organizing those automakers is important for the UAW because its membership has declined from a high of 1.5 million in 1979 from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979 to 376,612 members in 2010.

Earlier this year the UAW sent organizers to Alabama to talk to Hyundai workers. The UAW also has spoken with workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. where Volkswagen opened a new plant earlier this year.

But the strategy of protesting outside of dealerships is very risky, said Art Schwartz, former GM labor negotiator and president of Labor and Economics Associates.

“It may just irritate the people in the plants,” Schwartz said.

Workers, Schwartz said, might say: “You guys want us to join you but yet you are out making it harder to buy the vehicles I am making.”

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or

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