Dana votes to join union

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Employees at Dana Corp. in Cape Girardeau have voted to join the United Auto Workers union, which will soon begin to negotiate a new contract that will set terms of wages and benefits for its 222 new members.

After three separate meetings between the union and the workers, the vote was verified on Sept. 23, according to plant manager Larry Dillon.

Dana Corp., a Toledo, Ohio-based company, operates a facility in Cape Girardeau that manufactures automotive axle components for light truck and sport utility vehicle markets.

In 2003, the United Auto Workers union reached a labor agreement with Dana Corp. that over time could add thousands of workers to the union's rolls before the union is through.

Under that agreement, Dana's U.S. factories that supply General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG plants in North America will be considered unionized if a card check -- a union-friendly election format -- shows a majority of workers want UAW representation.

"Dana decided that if that is what the people wanted to do, Dana was not going to stand in the way," Dillon said.

He said the local facility was among seven facilities that are part of a second-phase recruitment effort by UAW.

Of the 258 total employees, 222 are not management, he said, and will be part of the union. Most of the workers at the local plant work as machinists.

Dillon emphasized that being unionized won't change Dana's focus.

"The company still has to maintain its competitive prices and quality or we won't be here," he said. "We're going to work so that doesn't change."

Several employees declined comment. UAW officials in Detroit did not return calls.

Negotiations between the company and UAW over the next several months will spell out what pay and benefits are, Dillon said.

The decision of Dana employees comes at a time when organized labor is on a downturn. In decades past, one in three American workers were members of a union. Today, nine out of 10 are not.

Two weeks ago, though, several unions got together to try to gain solidarity.

Anna Burger, chair of the Change to Win federation, said that the group is made up of several unions, including the Service Employees, Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers, UNITE HERE, the Laborers, Carpenters and the United Farm Workers.

She said unions still have a focus.

"Unions are the antidote for what ails us," she said. "They create the best jobs, provide health and safety, ensure affirmative action, fight poverty, and offer pensions, health care and training."

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