Roy Exum: The UAW Is Not Nice

Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In 1954, tiny Milan High School (enrollment 162) won the Indiana State Boys Basketball Tournament in an against-all-odds thriller over a much larger Muncie Central High. Famously known as “The Milan Miracle” and the stimulus for the great movie “Hoosiers,” over 40,000 descended on Milan (pop. 1050 at the time) the next day to embrace the winners

The best line from that day, and one that that people still keep alive, came from Coach Marvin Wood’s wife. She looked at ‘her’ players, with thousands craning their necks to hear, and said, “It’s nice to be important … but its more important to be nice.” This is the primary reason why virtually no one in our community wants the workers at our Volkswagen Assembly Plant to open the door to the UAW riff-raff. Starting today as they vote yea or nay to be represented by the United Auto Workers union and, as the entire population is aware, the UAW people are not nice, not at all.

Just a cursory glimpse at decades of the UAW’s lies, crimes, and tag-along misery is clear. At least eight UAW leaders have been put in prison this year alone (with more on the way). There are a number of lawsuits pending on how the UAW has mistreated its members. There are 30,000 former members who have each, individually, dropped out of the UAW since this time last year because, to be real honest, not a one who got suckered has anything to show for it.

Understand this: those who joined the UAW were all thinking it was a good idea but, like many more thousands, have come to the realization that the auto union is a cash-eating cow and not one of its members could draw off as much as a thimble of milk from it. When GM shuttered the Lordstown, Ohio, plant, the gates that were locked also affected the whole town. Houses are selling “for cheap.”

To be fair, those who work together at VW are good people. They are us, who we are. Pro union or anti-union, we are lucky to have these people in our neighborhoods, our Bible study groups, and – much bigger - creating a better future for our tri-state communities. Right now, they are unimpeded in that hope because, again just for now, there are no stumbling blocks of UAW garbage.

But if the union is invited by the majority of VW workers – the VW folks almost all good people - it only stands to reason the UAW must produce a reason they are skimming the workers’ wages once a month. The only way the UAW can succeed is to “create” a need for its member to see. You can’t see a promise, so you are forced to create problems that are easy to solve and then the mistrust begins.

For instance, it is obvious the workers get along as not just co-workers, but as friends. The UAW’s staple is distrust and soon the ‘for’ and ‘against’ guys quit speaking. VW’s most-known dissenters all are “rewarded” union jobs and stir the stew for 24 hours every day. That’s the best way they can prove their worth or, maybe, the only way they still can.

 In the UAW’s most desperate mission, it can only get money by increasing its membership. But as ‘The Big Three’ manufacturers respond to such threats, let's just say five GM plants will close by the end of this year. The truth is the Department of Justice may turn out to be the anti-union’s Most Valuable Player.

For example: Many of the union’s chief executives have set up these “private foundations,” which are hard to inspect, but it is believed when certain companies need a nudge, a gift to “The Flower Fund” is also hard to catch. This from the Detroit News in yesterday’s editions:  “Since 2013, the training centers have spent more than $22.5 million on promotions and advertising, according to federal tax filings reviewed by The News. Publicly available tax filings do not identify which firms received the money.”

It goes on and on and the more you read about stolen money, and a reception where there was minimum fabric used in the outfits of many women who quite fetchingly walked through the crowd to light $7,000 worth of cigars for the unsavory sorts. it is painfully clear VW’s employees should have the wits to keep our community free of people who are not nice.

My newest friend, Charlyce Bozzello, wrote a heckuva opinion piece in the Detroit News last Thursday I wish everybody on both sides of the UAW could read:

* * *


(Written by Charlyce Bozzello in The Detroit News. June 6, 2019)

Will the Big Three automakers see their first strike in more than a decade? That depends on whether or not auto workers are ready to take a pay cut. 

The UAW has threatened a "targeted" strike as soon as this fall, halting operations at either General Motors' Toledo transmission plant or its Tonawanda engine plant to trigger a "domino effect" on industry production. As if in preparation, UAW President Gary Jones recently reassured workers that the union had their back, pledging an increase in strike pay to $250 a week. But that money doesn't go far — a reality that's quickly sinking in for almost 1,000 nurses at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo.

Represented by the UAW, these workers began a walkout early last month. It took almost three weeks of strikes before the union began paying employees $250 per week from its strike fund. For a nurse in Toledo who averages over $300 for one 12-hour shift, the $250 per week is a joke considering the union has $760 million in its strike fund. It’s no wonder some workers have chosen to cross the picket line and return to work.

The UAW has long relied on strikes as its favorite weapon against employers — regardless of how often this tactic has led to layoffs and company closures that ripple across the entire country. In Detroit, a strike at General Motors led to over 400,000 employees being laid off after just one month. That’s not to mention the layoffs that were triggered at affiliated companies across at least another 20 cities. A tiremaker in Los Angeles laid off 1,150 people. A Milwaukee car frame manufacturer laid off 2,500 workers. American Zinc Co. in St. Louis laid off another 380 based on the Detroit walkout.

As for the GM employees, the strike fund paid about 20 percent of their average wage.

When the UAW decided to go on strike at two Flint GM parts factories, it didn’t take long for the town to feel the impact — General Motors accounted for more than half the area’s employment. Sure, workers were drawing $150 per week from the strike fund, but that's not much compared to the $20 per hour, or $800 a week, they should have been making.

Like clockwork, this strike laid waste to thousands of jobs across the country. A windshield wiper factory in Rochester laid off 1,200 workers, the Lear Corp. laid off 2,800 employees at car seat factories from Delaware to Texas, and Harvard Industries laid off 900 workers at its factories in Tennessee, Virginia and New Hampshire.

Let’s not forget the fate of a Volkswagen plant in Westmoreland County, Pa., where the local UAW didn’t wait more than six months after the plant’s opening before launching unauthorized strikes. From the beginning, the wildcat strikes idled production and left employees with what one worker described as a “bad taste for unions.” The Volkswagen plant closed after 10 years, taking 2,500 jobs with it and devastating the entire county.

The union's reputation with its represented employees has recently suffered from a spotlight on the spending habits of its leaders; the strike fund was used to pay non-union workers to construct a luxury cabin for ex-President Dennis Williams. Fortunately, more auto workers have become familiar with the UAW’s playbook — it’s likely why the union just saw its largest drop in membership since the Great Recession.

Remaining UAW members should ask themselves if this is the type of track record worth staking their livelihood on.

(Charlyce Bozzello is a communications director at the Center for Union Facts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting for transparency and accountability in today's labor movement.)

* * *

I am surprised more people haven’t mentioned it but here’s another item from The Detroit News:

“Another big project is looming in Chattanooga this time around. But politicians have not publicly linked its fate to the union vote.

“An $800 million expansion is planned for Volkswagen in Chattanooga, where the company expects to create 1,000 jobs as the factory gears up for electric vehicle production beginning in 2022. The project is due a $50 million state infrastructure grant in the budget that begins in July.”

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