UAW ad campaign: Buy U.S.-made cars, trucks

LORDSTOWN — Local union leaders said they fully support a United Auto Workers ad campaign that urges consumers to buy U.S.-made cars and trucks.

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams announced Friday the union is preparing the ad campaign as it tries to tap into President Donald Trump’s efforts to rebuild the country’s manufacturing sector.

Williams said the ads could be similar to a 1970s garment workers campaign with a catchy jingle that told people to look for a union label on clothing.

Williams, who met with reporters Thursday at UAW’s headquarters in Detroit, said the union wants to take advantage of what it sees as a movement in the U.S. to bring back manufacturing jobs lost to cheaper-labor countries such as Mexico.

“If it’s not built in the United States, then don’t buy it,” Williams said.

Williams is urging consumers to buy union-made vehicles first, then those made at non-union factories in the U.S. In essence, he’s telling people to buy a U.S.-made Toyota Camry over a Mexican-made Ford Fusion, which may put him at odds with Detroit automakers.

UAW Local 1714 President Rob Morales said it’s encouraging to have a leader like Williams promote a campaign to buy American products. UAW locals 1714 and 1112 represent workers at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Lordstown, where the popular Chevrolet Cruze is made.

“This is something we heard a lot about during the (presidential) campaign season,” Morales said. “It’s something that is welcomed and should have been discussed more and promoted a long time ago. With all the talk in recent months, and rightfully so, about securing American jobs, the timing is right for this. I believe it’s critical to the auto industry and to American jobs as a whole. American jobs are valuable. American workers are valuable.”

UAW Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson said he supports efforts to educate consumers about the issue.

“Obviously I fully support anything that’s done to shine light on the good workers we have and the importance of supporting American jobs and workers,” Johnson said. “I think people have been hearing what’s being said, but some people just don’t really know what an American-made product is. It’s gotten very confusing. It’s good to see a resurgence, to hear people talking about it.”

Trump used the slogan “Make America Great Again” in his campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton. He also campaigned on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he blamed for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

But Johnson and Morales have pointed out that recent job cuts at the Lordstown plant resulted from a market shift from small cars like the Cruze to larger vehicles and not from issues related to NAFTA.

The local plant, which lost its third shift last month, has been adjusting to the elimination of about 1,000 jobs. GM also said several weeks of down time are being added to Lordstown’s 2017 schedule to align Cruze production with market demand. Next month, the plant is expected to be idled for three weeks.

“Right now it’s important for us to maintain our status, to move forward and position ourselves to take on another product or be ready when the market shifts back to small cars,” Morales said. “As far as UAW as a whole, we don’t want to see American jobs sent somewhere else, obviously. It’s important to keep jobs here for our workers.”

But the success that foreign-made cars have had in the U.S., as well as the popularity of other imported goods, suggests that consumers are more focused on price and quality than whether something is made here.

An Associated Press-GfK poll last April found that Americans would like to buy products made in the U.S., but not if they cost more. Given the choice between a $50 pair of pants made overseas or an $85 pair manufactured in the U.S., two-thirds said they would buy the cheaper pair.

Allen Adamson, founder of BrandSimple consulting in the New York area, said the simplicity of a ‘Buy American’ campaign might work for a short time with part of the U.S. population. But the message could become muddied because foreign automakers build some models here and Detroit automakers build some in other countries, he said.

“If there ever was a time to give it a try, that time is now,” he said. “I don’t think it will turn into action because it’s too complex and confusing for the average consumer.”

Williams, whose union endorsed Clinton, didn’t say when the ads would start. He also told reporters the UAW is willing to work with Trump to redo the trade deal. It’s still researching the border tax Trump has talked about on goods imported from Mexico.



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