St. Johns, Mich. (December 16, 2003) – Fighting a highly coercive union organizing drive that embodies an emerging trend in the auto industry, a St. Johns-area worker filed federal charges today. The charges challenge a sweetheart agreement between Dana Corporation and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union intended to corral some 300 workers into union membership regardless of their wishes.
Company and union officials began implementing their so-called “partnership agreement” – which required the company actively to support union organizing efforts – even after a majority of the St. Johns facility workers had signed a petition outlining their explicit opposition to unionization by the UAW union.
Gary Smeltzer, a Dana employee, obtained free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB will decide whether to issue a formal complaint and prosecute the charges.
The charges seek an NLRB injunction against the UAW and Dana Corporation that would block implementation of the “partnership agreement.” As part of the agreement, company officials handed over employees’ personal information to union organizers and granted union operatives wide access to employees in the plant. Union officials also make it difficult for employees to void previously signed union recognition cards.
As part of their coercive organizing efforts, UAW union officials notified employees that the only way they could rescind prior authorization cards was if UAW operatives visited the home of each worker – an intimidation tactic obviously intended to discourage dissent.
“Since employees nationwide have increasingly rejected unionization through the secret ballot election process, union organizers have bypassed this less abusive process and instead are organizing companies from the top down,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The employees’ wishes are the last thing on the minds of UAW officials. They just want forced union dues. Dana willingly complies in order to get a sweetheart contract.”
In addition to assisting actively union organizers, company officials may not respond to any questions from workers about the union. Company officials also waived a secret ballot NLRB-supervised election in exchange for union officials’ offer to waive future legal rights of organized employees. Union officials even began bargaining with Dana over health benefits despite lacking majority support.
While many workers signed the petition to remain free of union representation before the organizing drive began, Dana and UAW officials completely ignored their wishes. The petition was submitted to UAW and Dana top executives in November, and expressly requested that the union not be granted monopoly representation over the workers, and that personal information not be given to union operatives.