Auto worker union targeting South Carolina plants for BMW, Volvo in new campaign
Story Date: 11/30/2023

Auto worker union targeting South Carolina plants for BMW, Volvo in new campaign
By Josh Archote
13 hrs ago 
COLUMBIA — Two South Carolina car assembly plants are involved in a new United Auto Workers labor union organization campaign.  

UAW organizers are targeting the BMW assembly plant near Spartanburg and the Volvo plant outside Charleston, union spokesman Jonah Furman confirmed Nov. 29. 

Neither company was immediately available for comment.

The organizing drive will cover nearly 150,000 autoworkers across 13 automakers, according to UAW. Workers are in the process of signing authorization cards on the UAW’s website. 

“To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union, now it’s your turn,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a video.

“Since we began our stand-up strike, the response from autoworkers at non-union companies has been overwhelming. Workers across the country, from the West to the Midwest and especially in the South, are reaching out to join our movement and to join the UAW.”

The new campaign comes after the UAW secured wage increases for workers at Ford, Stellantis and General Motors ranging from at least 25% increases and more for some workers over the next 4½ years.

The Spartanburg County BMW assembly plant builds X-model sport-utility vehicles for the global market, while the Charleston Volvo plant in Ridgeville, Dorchester County, builds the S60 sedan and the battery powered EX90 SUV at its plant off Interstate 26. 

South Carolina last year attracted more than $6.5 billion worth of investments and more than 5,300 jobs from automakers, suppliers and battery companies. Volkswagen announced in March that its subsidiary, Scout Motors, will build a $2 billion electric vehicle plant in Blythewood that could create 4,000 more jobs in 2026.  

Through its new unionization campaign, UAW also will target Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Rivian, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen. 

Locations of each plant were not announced. A UAW news release included testimony from workers at Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., assembly complex; Hyundai’s assembly plant in Montgomery, Ala.; a Rivian EV plant in Bloomington, Ill.; and a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

In January, then-UAW President Ray Curry told The Post and Courier that South Carolina is fertile ground for organizing campaigns as dozens of vehicle manufacturers, battery factories and suppliers gear up for the switch to electric cars in coming years.

But the organization efforts will likely face opposition. The UAW has struggled to organize at foreign-owned auto companies and in the South. 

South Carolina has the lowest percentage of union-represented workers nationwide — just 2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Currently, about 2,500 UAW members reside in South Carolina, but most are retirees or surviving spouses, The Post and Courier previously reported. The number of working UAW members in South Carolina is less than 400 statewide.

State leaders, including U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley, have taken hard lines against unions in their political messaging.