Roy Exum: UAW Lagging Against VW

Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

If you are keeping a play-by-play tally in the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize Chattanooga’s Volkswagen Assembly Plant, it isn’t a long reach to wonder why the scandal-ridden UAW just doesn’t whistle up the dogs and dash the campfire with a pail of water. As desperate as the UAW may well be, its membership has dwindled to record lows and is going to get worst later this summer when “The Big Three” automakers are actually eager to tussle over contract negotiations.

When the National Labor Relations Board somewhat surprisingly abruptly put the negotiations with Volkswagen on hold last weekend, industry experts called it a big blow to UAW’s efforts. In 2015 the UAW won a smaller election with a group of 160 maintenance workers, but VW has refused to bargain with the union group.

A year must pass after a union certification at a facility before there can be another union election, which allows for adequate bargaining time. VW argued that the one-year ban was still in effect since it hadn’t technically started bargaining with the union.

The company previously refused to bargain with the smaller unit, saying that it improperly segmented workers at the facility and that it would be more appropriate to include all workers. It had appealed the legality of the smaller maintenance unit.

But, far worse, the UAW is getting mauled as its membership is at a record low. Over 38,000 quit paying dues last year, General Motors just announced the closing of four plants by year’s end, and a far-reaching scandal that has earned prison time for eight Fiat-Chrysler executives is ongoing.

On Monday Fiat-Chrysler actually used robo-calls to tell autoworkers they would join an entire shift on the assembly line that had already been laid off (about 1,400) at the Belvidere (Illinois) plant. Last month 1,500 were laid off in Windsor, Ontario (just over the border from Detroit) and General Motors’ layoffs now total over 14,000.

“John,” a second-shift worker, told the site, “I’m hearing from our illustrious union that (Fiat-Chrysler) is forcing us to move to Toledo. If we don’t, they’ll cut our unemployment and benefits. We also hear there are 4,500m plus-or-minus temporary part-time employees at Toledo and they going to replace them with us.”

Additionally, sometime later today (May 8) the president of the UAW in Saginaw, Mich., will meet with Nexteer Automotive, that hires 5,000 full-time employees and is the largest employer in the county. Tom Hurst has been told he will get the details off a large layoff and for the UAW such news is horrifying – UAW Local 699 has 3,000 active members yet – get this – 7,900 retirees that depend on dues.

It has been learned Rick Berman, a union-busting lawyer who is so adroit he is called “Dr. Evil” by CBS producers on “60 Minutes,” is leading the anti-union effort in Chattanooga and in an exclusive interview with Payday Report, Berman freely laid out his media strategy to defeat the UAW … whenever that time comes:

* * *

AN EXCERPT FROM ‘Berman’s Anti-UAW Strategy at VW In Chattanooga’

(Written by Mike Elk for “Payday Report” on April 25, 2019)

“We are looking at all of the misbehavior and the fraud practiced on the UAW members that have only recently come to light, and we are giving it some exposure,” says Berman of a series of ads highlighting the conviction of 4 top UAW officials for accepting $4.5 million in bribes from Chrysler in exchange for taking concessions from the company at the bargaining table behind the backs of their members.

“The ads, which first appeared in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press as well as in the Detroit Free Press this weekend, focus heavily on how the UAW has had to spend $1.5 million in union dues to defend itself against the federal bribery investigation according to Department of Labor records.

“Berman says next he intends to focus on how the UAW paid for non-union construction labor to build a $1.3 million cottage for retired UAW President Dennis William at the UAW’s 1,000-acre retreat on Black Lake in Northern Michigan.

“The ads also highlight a website, which Berman has set up,, which links to news articles on the corruption scandals plaguing the UAW. The site also highlights a 2017 New York Times investigation into how UAW representatives at Ford plants in the midwest routinely refused to file sexual harassment complaints on behalf of their female workforce.

“The aim, he says, is to sow doubt in workers’ minds about whether the UAW really will represent them.

“Knowing about the UAW would be enough for me to vote no, I wouldn’t give my money to those guys,” says Berman. “All you gotta do is read the newspaper and figure out how corrupt they are and I don’t know if I would want to join.”

“Berman says he thinks it’s a message that could persuade a lot of workers in the non-union South to vote against the UAW.

“It will resonate with a lot of them,” says Berman. “Whether it’s the main issue, I don’t know. There are a lot of issues….A lot of people don’t like [union] seniority systems because they can’t move along based on their own abilities if the line is too long to get promoted.”

“There are people who don’t like giving up union dues, there are people who don’t like being threatened with the possibility of a strike or a work stoppage,” says Berman.  “Everybody’s got their own reason for why they don’t want to join a union.”

“Despite the fact that Gallup opinion polling shows that union approval is at its highest rate in 15 years with 61% of Americans approving of unions, Berman says that even people who might see themselves theoretically as pro-unions can be turned against them.

“They may be in favor of organized labor in a poll, but I’m not certain how many of them would vote yes to join a union election in their workplace–that’s a very different question,” Berman points out. “It goes back to you may think unions are good, but you might not want to join one because of all the rules, regulations, and costs.”

ALSO FROM BERMAN: “It’s not a campaign about Chattanooga, it’s not a campaign about union organizing, it’s a campaign about the UAW,” he said.

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