To hear President Donald Trump tell it, recently announced investments in U.S. plants are purely the result of his rise to power.
The reality, of course, is much more complex than that. But that perception could spell trouble for the UAW in the Trump era if the union doesn’t address that reality.
Take, for example, Fiat Chrysler’s Jan. 8 announcement that it would invest $1 billion in U.S. plants and add 2,000 jobs in the coming years.
The plan had been in the works for years and was borne out of the automaker’s 2015 labor negotiations with the UAW, as CEO Sergio Marchionne noted. It had little or nothing to do with Trump’s inauguration, with the possible exception of the announcement’s timing.
But in the era of fake news, facts don’t shape perception. And the perception right now among many blue-collar Americans is Trump is creating these jobs.
It will be important for labor unions -- especially the UAW, given Trump’s fixation on auto manufacturing -- to find a way to cut through the noise and counter the soon-to-be president’s messaging.
The UAW can start by better publicizing itself in years when it is not negotiating with the Detroit 3.
To its credit, the UAW was quick to respond to each of the Detroit 3’s announcements, most recently via a statement from UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who noted that GM’s investments “emerged as a result of the 2015 national bargaining agreement.”
That was a start, but the union can go further.
It can take a page out of Trump’s book by being everywhere on social media, aggressively fighting back against what it sees as falsehoods or misleading statements. The UAW should make it a priority to always remind the public and membership what the union was able to secure during contract negotiations and to not hesitate to take credit when the facts allow.
Not doing so could be disastrous for the union’s clout, allowing Trump -- who is not afraid to trash talk unions -- to control the narrative. That would make it difficult to rally enough support from membership to take a stand against those elements of the Trump administration that it deems to be unkind to American workers.