Roy Exum: The UAW Won’t Leave

Thursday, February 5, 2015 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In the northwestern corner of Alabama is the tiny town of Hamilton, where the folks who work for the big ball-bearing company, NTN-Bower, are having a tough time. The majority of the workers don’t want to be represented by the United Auto Workers union anymore but the UAW, in typical fashion, is refusing to leave.

So the NTN-Bower employees will have an unprecedented fourth vote on February 20th in yet another attempt to cast out the union that so desperately needs members. UAW officials were able to persuade the National Labor Relations Board to dismiss the first two votes by the employees and, when a third vote was taken on January 16 of this year, the union finally won.

But, once again, there was a discrepancy – 139 workers voted but 148 ballots were found in the box. Imagine that. Only 140 workers at NTN-Bower are eligible to vote.

Mark Mix, the president of the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, called the extra ballots “a good example of a rigged election characterized by obvious ballot-box stuffing and mishandling of ballots.”

NTN-Bower employees originally requested a decertification election in 2013 but an article in this week’s Daily Caller quoted a right-to-work advocate as saying if the union loses it “will file charges with the NLRB to block the elections and the Obama Labor Board is usually happy to oblige.” One inflamed employee added, “They (UAW) claim to have a set of election principles but they lie … they hate to lose. It is hard to believe we are having to vote for the fourth time.”

NTN-Bower has been represented by the UAW since 1976 but, allegedly, NTN Bower employees at other plants in the United States are better paid, better treated and have less strife, according to those who are now trying to get rid of the union.

Meanwhile, the UAW’s efforts to organize Chattanooga’s Volkswagen Assembly Plant has exposed the “dirty side” of Volkswagen AG, a German company whose only other assembly plant in America (in Westmoreland, Pa.) was shuttered in 1988 due to repeated union strife. One UAW employee told a Reuters reporter he quit counting the suicides after the Westmoreland plant closed when his count reached 19. “I used to go to every funeral home but I stopped. It was too morbid.”

At first the VW plant in Chattanooga was poised to be a gleaming union-free plant in a right-to-work state but, more recently, skillful maneuvering by the UAW and IG Metall (the German union) got both plant manager Frank Fischer and human resources director Dr. Hans-Hebert Jagla replaced with pro-UAW leadership. As a matter of fact, the current human relations head at the Chattanooga plant is Sebastian Patta, whose brother Frank is a ranking IG Metall officer. Imagine that.

Now the word on the assembly line is that the Patta brothers are closely aligned with VW leaders Dr. Horst Neumann and Berndt Osterloh in the UAW attempt to organize the VW plant. After the UAW was handed a 712-626 loss at the ballot box last February, Sebastian Patta called an all-hands meeting of every VW employee in Chattanooga and publicly characterized Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker as “liars,” which didn’t exactly sit well with the rank and file.

Patta also allegedly told employees, “We will have an American vote. Since the UAW is the only candidate, they will be the only one allowed to present.” Since then, a rival group – American Council of Employees – has submitted papers to the VW plant in hopes of also representing workers and thwarting UAW efforts in Chattanooga.

The vast majority of those in the Chattanooga area are “anti-union” after organized labor nearly ruined Chattanooga 50 years ago. Many can still recall when there was little industry in what is now a vibrant city. As Deb Emster so succinctly put it, “The union rabble rousers need to get out of Tennessee. They are not welcome. They are not good neighbors. They are thugs and institutions of evil."

“The unions of today do no good to anyone but themselves,” she said. “They pocket the money they collect and it is skimmed by the mafia. Thuggery, mafia, meanness and evil is not Tennessee. Now these bad people need to get out of here and go back to the hell holes they came from.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership dropped by 18.1 percent in Tennessee last year and today less than five percent of the state’s work force is represented by organized labor, most of them municipal workers. 

The UAW, desperate to organize a global auto maker, was dealt a several blow in Mississippi last week when the union, with the help of the foreign labor group IndustriALL Global Union Federation, was rebuffed after asking the U.S. State Department to mediate claims of anti-union practices at the 6,500-employee plant Nissan plant near Jackson.

Nissan told federal officials in a very direct way their help was not wanted and said that long-established guidelines for bringing a union vote are already established by the National Labor Relations Board. A company statement read, “Nissan respects labor laws in every nation where it operates and works to ensure that all employees are aware of these laws.”

The State Department also issued a statement, saying its effort ended because "a voluntary mediation process could not be established since Nissan was not willing to participate" with the State Department's National Contact Point (NCP), which works to further the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's guidelines in the United States.

"The NCP regrets Nissan's unwillingness to participate in the process," the statement said. The UAW, knowing Nissan has an alliance with French-based Renault in the Netherlands (Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan) indicated they may file OECD objections in Japan, France and the Netherlands since its State Department card failed.

What does the UAW stand to lose? They’ll just call for another election. Imagine that.

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