Detroit, Mich. (June 13, 2003) – Facing stiff opposition from workers at a major Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) facility in Athens, Tennessee, United Auto Workers (UAW) union organizers have abandoned current efforts to impose union representation. According to National Right to Work Foundation sources, union operatives only obtained signatures from 10 percent of the employees at the plant.
Last year, pressured by UAW officials, crippling strikes, and the “Big Three” auto makers, JCI signed a so-called “neutrality agreement” that requires the major supplier to assist substantially in efforts to unionize the employees of its 26 non-union facilities across America. This effort includes “captive audience” speeches, waiver of secret ballot elections, and the turnover of employees’ personal information to the UAW.
Nevertheless, the Athens JCI workers were reported to be openly hostile to any notion of unionization. In meetings JCI conducted, employees even donned homemade t-shirts saying “UAW-Union Ain’t Wanted.”
While the Athens JCI employees’ repudiation in recent days is a setback to the UAW union’s ongoing efforts to expand control over workers employed by auto industry suppliers, the union is rolling out its program at other JCI facilities as well as those of other companies, such as Magna-Donnelly, and Freightliner.
“Since employees are increasingly rejecting union membership when given a choice through secret ballot elections, Big Labor is now enlisting companies to help bully workers into accepting compulsory unionism,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation, which is providing free legal assistance to employees of JCI and other companies who are concerned that their freedom of association is in jeopardy.
As part of the “neutrality agreement” union organizers were given full access to non-union employees’ personal information and company facilities. After obtaining employees’ names, addresses, and phone numbers, union organizers conducted home visits and other initiatives to obtain signatures on union authorization cards. Workers have reported harassment from union officials both on and off the job.
Also under the JCI-UAW “neutrality agreement,” non-union employees have been forced to attend “captive audience” speeches in which they are told that, if they do not support the union’s organizing effort, they could risk losing potential job opportunities.
As part of the agreement, JCI workers are denied the ability to reject unionization through a secret ballot election, and union operatives are allowed to sign up workers under a “card check” authorization scheme. Had UAW officials been able sign up a majority of the workers at the Athens plant, then JCI would have declared the union as the exclusive representative of all the workers, even those who did not sign a card. However, the workers now report that UAW operatives have packed their bags and left the Athens plant.