DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union has decided it will not identify an organizing target among foreign automakers with U.S. operations, a shift in strategy in a campaign that union leadership sees as central to its survival.
"We are not going to announce a target at all," UAW President Bob King said in an interview. "We are not going to create a fight."
King said that the UAW was in talks with all of the German, Japanese and Korean automakers with U.S. factories and expected to continue to make progress toward organizing workers in their operations.
But King said that the UAW board had met on Wednesday and decided not to identify a target for an organizing campaign, a sharp change in tactics by the union that represents about 115,000 workers at U.S. automakers.
King has made organizing the transnational or "transplant" automakers a critical piece of the union's strategy since he took over in July 2010.
King has repeatedly said the future of the UAW depends on organizing foreign automakers' U.S. plants, something it has failed to do numerous times in the past.
Establishing a foothold in one of the foreign automakers' U.S. plants would be a huge victory for a union that has seen its membership fall 42 by percent since 2004 to about 377,000 at the end of last year. Total UAW membership includes workers in other industries including casinos, aerospace and nursing as well as graduate teaching assistants at U.S. universities.
The drop in membership is even larger from the UAW's all-time high in 1979 of nearly 1.5 million members.
The UAW in the past has repeatedly failed to organize workers at the U.S. plants of such automakers as Japan's Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co, South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors and Germany's VW, BMW and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz.
King was speaking to Reuters and the Detroit Free Press.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Matthew Lewis)