Commentary

Can the United Auto Workers union regain its former glory and become a major force in the labor movement again? You bet it can! It won’t be easy, but it’s possible.

The UAW has a BFF (best friend forever, as the kids say) in the White House. President Barack Obama banked a lot of political capital with the labor movement, and it’s really paying off for the union.

Indeed, all the billions of dollars GM and Chrysler got from the government, as well as the cover the White House provided for getting them through bankruptcy in record time, largely is thanks to the UAW’s connection to the Obama Admin.

That doesn’t mean unions are going to get everything they want. The Employee Free Choice Act, better known as the card check, which would make it very easy to unionize a factory or a company, is not going to come up for a vote in Congress anytime soon because it would be shot down in flames.

However, under Obama, the National Labor Relations Board now is going to be friendlier to union organizing efforts than it has been in decades.

While the union has lost every organizing effort at transplant auto assembly plants over the last quarter century, it hasn’t given up. And time marches on. Toyota’s U.S. plant workers now average about 43 years old. It’s entirely possible the UAW could make inroads with them by addressing their pension and retirement concerns.

If the UAW were able to crack even one of the transplants, chances are the rest would go down like dominoes. After that, getting their suppliers to fall in line would be fairly easy. Getting the transplants and suppliers on board could double the UAW’s membership.

This is exactly why the UAW’s new president, Bob King, has Toyota in his cross hairs. Toyota is suffering through a public-relations nightmare with all of its recalls right now, and the UAW smells blood. It’s organizing protests at Toyota dealerships to put pressure on the auto maker by driving away business. If the union could organize Toyota, that would be a game changer.

After 30 straight years of losing membership, the UAW must know this is its last chance. It can keep on doing what it’s been doing and watch its membership slowly dwindle away. Or it can put everything it’s got into trying to pull off a roaring comeback.

I’m not sure the UAW can do it. But at the same time, I’m not yet convinced the union is doomed to fail. And judging by the way King has hit the ground running, the fight already is under way.

John McElroy is editorial director of Blue Sky Productions and producer of “Autoline” for WTVS-Channel 56, Detroit, and “Autoline Daily,” the online video newscast.