Grand Rapids, MI (January 13, 2009) – A majority of Johnson Controls (JCIM) employees at the Talon Court facility in Kentwood have filed a decertification petition seeking an election to oust the United Auto Workers (UAW) union as the JCIM workers’ monopoly bargaining agent, but UAW union lawyers argued in a formal hearing yesterday that the employees should be barred from access to a decertification election.
JCIM worker Dawn Lambert filed the decertification petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a secret ballot election to determine whether or not a majority of the workforce wants to retain the UAW union as their monopoly bargaining agent. Under federal labor law governing the private sector, when a union hierarchy has been granted monopoly bargaining authority, it is illegal for any present or future employees – whether they are members of the union or not – to negotiate with their employer for themselves unless they can prove that the union hierarchy does not retain majority support.
A clear majority of the employees at the Talon Court facility in Kentwood have now expressed their intent to remove the UAW. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have also sent a letter to JCIM management demanding that it cease further contract negotiations and also withdraw recognition of what is now a minority union at Talon Court. Under the law, recognizing and negotiating with a union that does not have majority support is an unfair labor practice.
However, in yesterday’s hearing, union lawyers claimed that the plant is not its own bargaining group but had been sucked into a large amorphous group that includes other JCIM plants across America, making the petition by a majority of Talon Court workers insufficient to trigger a decertification. Of course, it would be nearly impossible for employees to organize and muster a broad effort at unknown facilities far away from Grand Rapids. This UAW claim flies in the face of the fact that the union officials and management have been bargaining over local issues, and that a local contract is not in place after nearly two years since the union became the monopoly bargaining agent at Talon Court.
“Despite over 50 percent of employees wanting the union gone, bosses have the nerve to deny them even a vote,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Apparently the UAW is like a roach motel, easy to get in, but nearly impossible to leave.”
The decertification drive against the UAW in Kentwood comes amidst a UAW campaign to unionize JCIM workers in nearby Holland. In Holland, UAW union bosses have pressured JCIM to provide union organizers with access to company facilities and sensitive personal information about its employees, including their names, phone numbers, and home addresses.
Union bosses apparently intend to use this information to pressure employees to sign union authorization cards at work and at home. In fact, union operatives are also planning a captive audience meeting later this week to pressure workers to sign the cards. History shows that during “card check” campaigns union organizers frequently harass and even mislead workers into signing these cards with the ultimate goal of installing the union without even the minimal protections of a secret ballot election. Additionally, union officials will doubtlessly fail to tell Holland employees that they will not be able to vote the union out.
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, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.