National Right to Work Foundation urges High Court to allow enforcement of longstanding labor bribery statutes against increasingly common union schemes
Washington, DC (April 21, 2009) – Today, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court to uphold workers’ challenge to a secret quid pro quo agreement intended to install the United Auto Workers (UAW) union at Freightliner plants in North and South Carolina.
With free legal aid from the Foundation, five employees at three plants operated by Daimler Trucks subsidiary Freightliner filed a class-action federal racketeering lawsuit in 2006 challenging an illegal scheme in which union officials agreed in advance to significant concessions at the expense of the Freightliner workers at its non-union facilities in North Carolina in exchange for valuable company assistance in organizing those workers.
Federal law bars companies from giving “things of value” to unions or union officials, and it is also illegal for company and union agents to negotiate terms and conditions of employment before the union hierarchy has proven a majority of employees actually want it to represent them. But in a secret “Preconditions to Card Check Procedure” pact inked before employees even knew they were a UAW union organizing target, Freightliner and the UAW union expressly agreed to limitations on wages, an increase in the health care costs shouldered by employees, and other concessions.
In return, Freightliner gave the UAW union organizers direct access to propagandize employees at compulsory “captive audience” meetings and to harangue them in company break rooms, granted union organizers access to employees’ private home addresses, agreed not to provide truthful information to employees about the downsides of unionization, and agreed to automatically recognize the union without a secret ballot vote when presented the requisite number of signed union authorization cards.
In such “card check” organizing drives, employees are frequently coerced or misled into signing such cards, which are then counted as “votes.” Workers have also complained that signed cards are difficult to revoke.
In December, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld union lawyers' motion to dismiss the case. Foundation attorneys argue the lower court erroneously limited “things of value” to only tangible and explicit monetary benefits. But given the millions of dollars unions spend on corporate campaigns to obtain the advantages delivered by Freightliner in this case, the UAW clearly obtained “things of value.” Moreover, the court could have simply remanded for fact finding as to monetary value, which can easily be established.
“We urge the Supreme Court to do what the lower courts have refused: restore the rights of American workers victimized by sweetheart deals between management and union bosses,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
The employees seek financial restitution to all employees at the Mount Holly, Gastonia, and Cleveland, North Carolina, facilities in the form of treble damages for all dues seized and earnings lost as a result of the unlawful pact. Additional Freightliner plants known to be covered by the once-secret agreement are located in High Point, North Carolina, and Gaffney, South Carolina.