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Todd Strange: The future of Hyundai is Alabama – not Detroit

I had the privilege of being the Director of the Alabama Development Office during the Hyundai recruitment, Chairman of the Montgomery County Commission when the plant opened, and three-term Montgomery Mayor for many of the plant expansion projects.

During our many visits with Hyundai and suppliers and multiple trips to Korea, I have come to learn and appreciate their culture, work ethic, and business acumen. A tremendously advanced technological company, they greatly understand that it takes skilled, and trained team members to make Hyundai and its suppliers successful.

They have been a part of central Alabama for close to twenty years and have greatly enriched the fabric of our community, Alabama, and beyond. We have adopted the term “before Hyundai, and after Hyundai” when we talk about the river region and the I-85 corridor. Thank you, Hyundai, for your great contribution.

Over the years, automobile union organizers coveted coming to the South and Alabama to revitalize their membership and expand their political reach. Hyundai team members in the past have rejected these efforts and now they come again. What has changed? Hyundai and their suppliers provide thousands of high-quality, family-sustaining jobs, injecting billions of dollars into our local economy that fund essential services for the benefit of our citizens.

They contribute to technological advancement and automotive safety and invest sufficiently in their American facilities and workforce. In addition to highly competitive wages, they offer attractive benefit packages including health insurance and leave benefits demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of their employees. I believe the old adage applies here, “if it ain’t broke, no need to fix it.”  

UAW tries to paint the picture that Alabama workers will have fewer rights and protection in the future.  Their tactics involve rules under which employers forfeit their right to speak freely to employees. Organizing our Hyundai plant is more important to the UAW than preserving the principles of transparency and informed decision-making. Our team members are competent and capable of making their own decisions.

Another tactic employed by unions is the push for card check as a method for determining union representation. This process, which denies workers the privacy of a secret ballot, exposes them to undue pressure, coercion, and intimidation. It’s essential to uphold the integrity of the voting process and ensure that workers can express their preferences free from external influence.

History chronicles many claims of mishandling of funds derived from dues-paying members with serious questions about accountability and transparency. Unions are not obligated to use dues solely for the benefit of workers, leading to concerns about how these funds are allocated. I read this morning that the organizations attempting to organize Hyundai and the South were committing 40 million dollars to this effort. Wow! While right-to-work laws, which we have, provide some protections for workers, they are not foolproof.

Even in right-to-work states, unions can still exert significant influence over workplace dynamics, potentially stifling individual autonomy and hindering direct communication between workers and management.

As someone who has witnessed firsthand the positive impact of international automakers on our community, I urge Alabamians to carefully consider the consequences of unionization. While unions claim to deliver stronger bargaining power, the reality can be quite different. The Teamsters, for example, recently celebrated a big bargaining victory over UPS, only for the delivery company to announce 12,000 layoffs due to unsustainable labor costs. 

The UAW is big on promises, but they are offering workers a dangerous bargain. Joining the union comes with a host of potential drawbacks, including diminished privacy, restricted communication, and no guarantee of job protection. Indeed, layoffs are often the norm after a big unionization effort, especially in the northern sector of our country. We do not want another “rustbelt.” 

The UAW’s expansion plans into the Alabama Hyundai plant pose significant risks to workers and the broader community. It’s essential to uphold the principles of workplace freedom and autonomy while ensuring that workers have access to accurate information to make informed decisions about their future.

Let’s work together and tell our friends and associates to preserve the economic vitality and prosperity of our community for generations to come.

Todd Strange is a businessman who served two terms as the Mayor of Montgomery. 

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