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UAW steps up organizing drive at Shahid Khan's Flex-N-Gate

By: By Vince Bond Jr.
AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

February 13, 2013

DETROIT -- The UAW, stepping up its organizing efforts at U.S. auto supplier Flex-N-Gate, plans rallies at seven of the company's plants today to highlight what the union contends is mistreatment of workers at the supplier's nonunion operations.

Last year, the UAW and its allies held demonstrations at the National Football League draft in New York that were directed at Flex-N-Gate owner Shahid Khan, who also owns the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. Khan was the subject of a segment on CBS News' "60 Minutes" on Oct. 28.

The UAW accuses Khan and Flex-N-Gate of paying "unlivable" hourly wages of $9 to $10 and of creating unsafe working conditions for nonunion workers. In August, UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada said the safety conditions at some plants are among the worst she has seen.

Meanwhile, the UAW has been under pressure to boost its membership for years. And although the union has failed in recent efforts to organize foreign automakers' nonunion U.S. plants, Flex-N-Gate offers a chance to organize workers at a large company that already has sizable UAW membership.

About 40 percent of Flex-N-Gate's U.S. workers have union representation, the UAW says. The UAW is trying to organize workers at 13 of the supplier's plants in seven states.

The only unionized Flex-N-Gate plants were acquisitions, according to the UAW.

Flex-N-Gate, incorporated in 1956 and headquartered in Urbana, Ill., ranks No. 56 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide parts sales to automakers of $3.4 billion in 2011.

The supplier, which provides bumpers, fascias and a variety of other parts for nearly every major automaker, employs more than 12,000 people at 59 sites worldwide. About 90 percent of its automotive business takes place in North America, according to Automotive News research.

"Flex-N-Gate associates receive competitive wages, enjoy quality growth opportunities and benefit from our ongoing commitment to safe working conditions," the company said in statement today. "The vast majority of Flex-N-Gate associates are happy with their employment."

Workers at a Flex-N-Gate plant in Texas have been illegally terminated or disciplined for trying to unionize there, according to a National Labor Relations Board order and decision issued last June.