Heartland, Steelworkers Hit With First-Ever Challenge to Pacts That Impose Union on Auto Industry Employees
Akron, Ohio (July 28, 2003) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys today filed an unprecedented federal court challenge against Heartland Industrial Partners LLP and the United Steel Workers of America (USWA) union, seeking to overturn an illegal sweetheart arrangement that requires all companies acquired by the Heartland firm to help impose unionization on their employees.
The suit calls into question the legality of a rapidly emerging organizing trend – especially prevalent in the automobile and hotel industries – in which struggling union organizers abandon traditional grassroots-driven unionization drives and instead elicit assistance from companies to impose compulsory unionism on their own employees through highly coercive top-down organizing methods.
Foundation attorneys filed the suit, Patterson et al. v. Heartland Industrial Partners LLP et al., in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, on behalf of Wanda Patterson, an employee of the Heartland-acquired Collins & Aikman company, an Ohio-based automotive parts manufacturer whose employees had rejected union organizing efforts on several previous occasions.
Under the pact at issue, Heartland forces acquired companies to operate under a so-called “neutrality agreement” that requires company managers to assist USWA union officials in organizing their employees – including denying employees an opportunity to vote in a traditional secret ballot election, giving union organizers employees’ private employment information such as home addresses, and, ultimately, forcing employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. In return, union officials pour unsuspecting workers’ trust funds into Heartland, promise to stifle employee rights under federal law, and limit employees’ ability to influence their own wages, benefits, and working conditions.
It is believed that this quid pro quo violates civil and criminal provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act enacted by Congress to prevent corruption, conflicts of interest, and sweetheart deals between company and union officials that compromise the interests of rank-and-file employees.
“This backroom deal between Heartland and the Steelworkers union is nothing more than a cynical scheme designed to aggrandize union officials at the expense of employees,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Since employees increasingly reject union affiliation when actually given a choice, union officials are resorting to these new coercive tactics to stem their hemorrhaging membership numbers and slumping compulsory dues revenues.”
In 2001, Heartland bought out the Collins & Aikman Corporation and forced the company to accept a “neutrality agreement” with the USWA union. Employees at the Holmesville, Ohio, Collins & Aikman facility had previously voted on several occasions to reject union representation before unionization was imposed in recent months under the so-called “neutrality agreement.”
The founding partner of the Heartland investment firm is David Stockman, former Director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan Administration.