Disgruntled Autoworker
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Disgruntled Autoworkers #12
August 2000

The Claws of Retaliation

Like most Union members, I left the business of running the Union and its affairs up to Officials. Why not? Our pay and benefits were decent. And I may have experienced a few lay-offs and a couple Plant closings, but thanks to my Union, I was given the opportunity to transfer so I could keep the same pay and benefits, and eventually a pension.

Then 24-years later I was screwed out of some overtime pay. My boss had a friend work overtime on my job. I questioned the Committeeman and then the Zoneman about it and they told me that, "Under the New 1999 Living Agreement with the Company, management reserves the right to have anyone work anywhere anytime they want." That sucks. I didn't vote for that and I don't believe my co-workers did either.

That was just the beginning of what I was about to learn about my Union. I had recently bought my first computer so I jumped head first into Union Websites. I discovered most Union's websites glorified the egos of its Leaders or their endeavors. They were also informative on current events, but there was nothing to explain why we were in a concessionary mode and why membership was shrinking at an alarming rate.

Then I discovered most Unions also have Dissident Movements within their ranks, some have been active for years. Their Websites weren't anti-Union, far from it. They were anti-Leadership, because in the last few Contracts the Union's International Leaders became Partners of the Corporations. And through Motions and Resolutions, they set themselves up as a Dynasty within the Union, making Democracy obsolete, or at the very least, a major financial hurdle and hardship for any Dissident Movement that dares to challenge them.

The more I read about the Dissidents and their struggles to reform the Unions, the more I understood and identified with them. Within the year I attended a Conference in Detroit where I met Union Activist from around the country. We formed a Coalition to inform and educate the membership about the corrupt practices of the Dynasties that gradually spread to most of our Locals. I became an Activist.

I was never one to write letters, ever. But Microsoft's Word 2000 program came with my computer and with it; I discovered a writing talent I was unaware of. I published my first Local Letter in January of 2000. It was based on my observations, hence the title of my Letters. I wrote about a low seniority member getting a preferred job over a higher seniority member. The same week I distributed the Letter the higher seniority member was given the job. I've been writing since.

I didn't sign my first Observations Letters for fear of retaliation. At the time, I didn't know there were Labor Laws protecting the right to free speech in the workplace. Then I met Gregg Shotwell, an Activist from Michigan who has a whole series of Letters on the Internet called Live Bait and Ammo. I Emailed him about the nepotism and favoritism in my Plant. He asked me to write about it and send it to him.

I wrote "Clingers and Appointees" and sent it to Gregg. With some editing, he recommended I send it out Nationally on an Email List he's put together. I was learning more about my rights so I didn't hesitate to put my name on it. In July of 2000 I sent it out as Disgruntled Autoworkers Observations # 1. And from that point on I've put my name on my Local Observations Letters as well.

Since then I've written 12 National and 27 Local Letters, a poem, a demand, a few comedy pieces and countless Letters to International and Local Union Officials, the FBI, DOJ, NLRB, DOL and a variety of State and Local officials, all in relation to corruption in my National and Local Union. I am a thorn in all of their sides, especially for International and Local Union Officials who've been labeled Traitors by the vast majority of the membership.

Being an Activist has its drawbacks. Not only am I a thorn in Union Officials sides. Management isn't too happy with my Union activities either, because my Letters have influenced elections and decisions between them and their Union. So when something slanderous appears, like the circulation 2 years ago of a computer-generated picture of me in a compromising position, or a recent unsigned letter that reveled indiscretions of my youth, I don't know whom to blame, because they are one in the same, like conjoined twins.

The Union is powerless to stop me from publishing and distributing my Letters because of a Federal Law called the Labor Management Reporting and Discloser Act (LMRDA). Unfortunately the Law doesn't apply to management. It should, because they have a Documented Partnership with the Union's Dynasty.

A few friends and I formed a 10 member Coalition that helped shake up our Local's Executive Board. And with the help of a Union Official, who wasn't compromised at the time, 5 of us signed a letter that asked for an International Audit. The results of which revealed everyone who went to the Conventions in June of 2002 was caught with their hands in the Cookie Jar. If that doesn't bring out the claws of retaliation, nothing will.

In the last few months, the Dynasty and management have managed to compromise 6 of the 10 people in our coalition, 2 held out and were retaliated against by being put on Line jobs, but they soon learned the error of their ways and conformed. Today they have do nothing Appointed Positions that were created by the Partnership.

Now there are just 2 of us and we are constantly under pressure and harassed by management and Union officials. In February and again in March an extra $100 in Union Dues was taken out of my check for unknown reasons. I questioned Payroll and they blamed the Union, and the Union blamed management.

I went to the Union Hall and asked the President, "Do you think they're charging me for my Union activities?" The Shop Chairman interrupted and said, "It'll cost you more than that." It's just a matter of time before one of his arrogant threats come back to haunt him. Anyway, the Union claims they looked into it and found that the $100 error was made in Texas, where our checks are cut. Yeah right. I was reimbursed by the Union and they filed the obligatory hardship grievance.

I did my own investigation and gave the President a Vision Voucher from the Safety Store. I told him whoever accessed the company computer to enter the information from the January Vision Voucher into the computer added the extra $100 deduction to my Union Dues. He seemed convinced and told me he would look into it and get back to me. He didn't. The Shop Chairman didn't either, and the Zoneman fed me that same Texas bull.

I knew they were covering for each other. Management and their Union were out to inconvenience and harass me any way they could. Labor Relations recently threatened to bring me down to Labor and question me about sabotaged jobs. They know I'm not doing it. They were trying to get me excited so I'd blow up at them. I didn't. As far as I'm concerned, someone in management could be sabotaging the jobs.

The Local's Dynasty can't shut me up because of LMRDA, but that doesn't mean management won't try. They gave me a Written Reprimand over Observations # 27. They claim I made false and malicious statements about an employee. Everyone who's read that letter, including 2 Lawyers, knows I did no such thing. I wrote my opinion and described a situation as it went down and that was all.

Management, grasping at straws, conducted a shoddy investigation by interviewing only 2 co-workers with conflicting stories about how the situation went down, and they based their Reprimand on the fabricated story that suited the results they wanted. The Union filed an obligatory grievance, and a second obligatory grievance for harassment over the Reprimand and Labor Relations threat.

Management, hellbent on retaliation, tried to nail me again before the July 4th shutdown. Someone in my SWG wrote a Derogatory Remark about a co-worker on a survey. A Union official told me they wanted to pin it on me. Management's storm troopers came to interview everyone in the Group, but the first person they talked to gave them an earful that took the wind out of their sails. The interview lasted 20 minutes and once they found out I don't do surveys and I didn't write the remark, the following interviews lasted only a minute each.

When it was my turn, I told management I didn't do it and I don't know who did. Then I told them I'd be filing a discrimination charge against them because they were interviewing everyone in the group for the Remark, but only 2 people for their investigation of my Letter. They didn't interview the last 2 co-workers. For what its worth, the Partners Appointed EEO Rep has been notified and is supposedly investigating.

I would have never guessed in January of 2000 that my Letters would have caused such a ruckus and brought out the claws of retaliation from management and their Union. I told a few members of the Coalition about the Reprimand, and the following statement is Gregg's dead on assessment of it, and it fits right in with everything else that's happened since the Cookie Jar incident, "This latest action by the company/union reveals how effective you are. It's a credit to your writing skills and truthfulness. If you were full of shit they'd let you blow like the wind over Lake Michigan."

In the words of Don Henley of the Eagles, "I will not go quietly." Their claws may give me a few cuts and scratches, but they will only strengthen my resolve. I know my rights. Therefore, they will not silence me.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom
UAW Local 239 Baltimore

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