News Release

Autoworkers Challenge National Agreement Mandating Acquired Companies to Help Unionize their Own Employees

Cleveland, Ohio (August 5, 2003) – In a potentially precedent-setting legal challenge, employees of Collins & Aikman today filed federal charges against a “secondary boycott” arrangement that forces companies acquired by Heartland Industrial Partners LLP to help the Steelworkers unionize their unsuspecting employees and then impose the same requirement on other companies with which they do certain business.

The charges attack an increasingly common “top-down organizing” tactic that is used to short-circuit traditional grassroots-driven union organizing drives that more frequently fail, due to a lack of interest in unionization among rank-and-file employees.

With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Linda Kandel, Galen Raber, Juanita Miller, and Renate Croll filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the United Steelworkers of America, Heartland Industrial Partners LLP, and Collins & Aikman Corporation.

As part of their pact with the Steelworkers union, Heartland agreed to force any company in which it has substantial investments to accept a so-called “neutrality agreement.” Under the terms of the “neutrality agreement,” the company must deny employees an opportunity to vote in a traditional secret ballot election, give union organizers employees’ private information including home addresses, and, ultimately, force workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

The newly acquired company must then impose the “neutrality agreement” on corporations it acquires or with which it does substantial business.

In return for this arrangement, union officials pour 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.

“Heartland and the Steelworkers union are using their sweetheart deal to spread compulsory unionism like a virus and infect as many workers as possible,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

This quid pro quo arrangement may also violate civil and criminal provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act. Today’s NLRB charges follow up a lawsuit filed last week by Foundation attorneys, Patterson et al. v. Heartland Industrial Partners LLP et al., challenging the “neutrality agreement” between Heartland and the Steelworkers union. The suit was filed on behalf of Wanda Patterson, an employee of Collins & Aikman, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

In 2001, Heartland bought out the Collins & Aikman Corporation and forced the company to accept a “neutrality agreement” with the Steelworkers 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 National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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