Disgruntled Autoworker
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Disgruntled Autoworkers #13
February 2004

Fear of Retaliation in the UAW

Being a Dissident and voicing an opinion, be it verbally or through a Newsletter, can be very harmful to your career if you're not careful. According to Webster's Dictionary, a dissident is one who disagrees with an established political system or organization.

In my case it's the UAW's one party established political system that's been in power for over 25 years. If familiarity breeds contempt, you'd have to look pretty hard to find a more contemptuous bunch than Appointed Officials of the established political system that rules the UAW and its Locals.

I wasn't aware of how corrupt the system is until it took money out of my pocket and put it in the pocket of a supporter. Complaining to the system's Reps is like talking to a wall. Instead of cutting my losses and fading back into the woodwork, I decided to retaliate by writing a Newsletter that would inform my coworkers of just how corrupt the system is.

That was 4 years and many Newsletters ago. If I learned anything, it's that retaliation is a double-edged sword. If a particular Newsletter offended one of the local Good Ole Boy (Gob) politicians, or was too critical of their established political system, they'd retaliate by circulating their own newsletter of lies, which they don't have the decency to sign.

Unlike them, I sign my Newsletters and I take pride in knowing I've put them on the defense. Since my first Newsletter the Gobs have been retaliating, and trying to discredit me. In the last year alone I had a tire slashed on the plant's parking lot, my friends and I were ridiculed at a Union Meeting and in the Locals official Newsletter. And officials disrespect me when I visit the Union Hall on official business. All I can say is, I must be doing something right for them to be giving me all this negative attention.

It wouldn't be so bad if it was just the Gobs retaliating, but managements (mgt) been getting involved too. My Newsletters have influenced the memberships perception of the established political system and in doing so I've influenced elections. Mgt is retaliating because they don't want any additional changes to the established political system anymore than the Gobs do.

In the last year mgt attached my check twice for unknown reasons. I had to go out of my way to correct the problem. And twice I was called down to Labor Relations for voicing my opinion. The first time resulted in a reprimand that I knew the Gobs were going to sit on. I believe the reprimand was the first step in mgt and the Gobs effort to build a case against me. So I went to the NLRB and filed a discrimination charge against mgt. They dropped the reprimand and the Gobs tried to take credit for it.

Before I circulate my Newsletters, I go over them with a fine toothcomb to make sure I don't offend anybody who doesn't deserve it. So when I wrote in December's Newsletter, "The Recording Secretary rolled over before she was sworn in," I didn't think anymore of it until I was called down to Labor Relations for the second time. Apparently the Recording Secretary was offended. Instead of setting an example and utilizing internal union remedies to deal with her concerns, she ran to management.

Everyone in my Local, America and the free world knows "Rolled over" is a political term for breaking campaign promises. Yet they expected me to believe the Recording Secretary is dumb enough to think it was a sexual remark. I asked if I could record their staged inquisition. They refused and denied my accusations that they had something to hide.

The Labor Rep asked, "What do you mean by rolled over?" I said, "She rolled over like our newly elected President and VP." The Labor Rep, whose ego is as big as all out doors, asked me again in a much too friendly voice, "But what do you mean by rolled over?" It was the tone of her voice that told me she was trying to coerce me into saying that rolled over was a sexual term. If I had fallen into her trap, I would have been fired on the spot for violating UAW-GM policy prohibiting sexual harassment.

With my union reps dummied up on both sides, I said, "When the Recording Secretary ran for office, she was as determined as the rest of us to shake up the local's established political system. I was campaigning for her when she asked me to be a challenger. Days before the election, she changed her mind, because she said she had more challengers than she needed. I found out from her best friend that the Shop Chairman sent her a stern warning, "If you have Hanscom as a challenger, you'll never be accepted by this administration." Wanting to be accepted by the Gobs, she dropped me like a hot potato. And after observing her performance in union meetings, her now ex-best friend, my new friend and I agreed that she's rolled over." I relished the disappointed look on their faces as I left the inquisition grinning from ear to ear. I'm not cocky and I don't believe for a second that they'll back off, because I know they'll try again.

Whenever I find myself in a situation where the Gobs or mgt retaliate against me for bogus reasons or threaten my career for exercising my right to free speech, I'll call people I've met in the UAW Solidarity Coalition http://hawk.addr.com/uawsc/index.htm or New Democracy http://www.newdemocracyworld.org and ask for their opinion or advice.

One opinion was, "Her going to management and trying to get you fired is proof that she rolled over." I couldn't agree more. I was advised to file Article 32 charges against the Recording Secretary for violating the UAW Constitution's Ethical Practices Codes by complaining to mgt about a fellow union member.

The Gobs ignore the Constitution, so I did too. I bypassed the local and filed Art. 32 charges with UAW International Appointed President Gettelfinger. One of his Flunkies responded that despite the Gobs hostile behavior in the Union Hall, and the slander in the Locals official Newsletter, I must first file charges at the local level. I guess the Constitution applies only to the membership.

Since becoming Partners in 84, GM and the UAW's International Executive Board (IEB) created a Loyal Army of Appointed Flunkies (LAAFs) whose main function is to attend union meetings and spread lies and rumors throughout our plants in a whispering campaign designed to deliberately cause resentment and distrust within the ranks, thus discouraging solidarity while promoting controllable GOB democracies in our locals.

And for 20 years they've collectively conditioned the membership into believing that resistance will result in retaliation. From personal experience I've found that when I write a grievance against a boss for working the line, I'd be harass and put on an undesirable job while he keeps working. Members see mgt retaliating against coworkers and they don't want to get involved, because of the Gobs failure to prosecute repeat offenders.

Members have become so accustomed to retaliation that they won't raise their hand or speak up out of fear of being noticed. They'll voice their discontent anonymously, like voting Traitors out of office, but they won't write a grievance against a boss for violating the contract, because, like the bosses, they've learned over the years that grievances are just paper to be used in the outhouse.

And 648 of them will put their names on a demand that would break up the LAAFs, but not even a * 1/4 of them followed through by turning out to vote the contract down when the demand wasn't included. And try as I might, I can't seem to motivate the membership enough to get more of them to attend meetings where the majority of those in attendance are Gobs and their LAAFs.

Therein lies my dilemma. Gettelfinger knows it and he's rubbing it in my face by kicking my charge back to the local level. He knows that filing local charges against a Gob would be a lost cause and a waste of time and energy, because our Local Unions have been intentionally compromised by an appointee system based on nepotism and favoritism, making it next to impossible to form a fair and impartial Trial Committee.

Even if I took my chances in the local Gob's kangaroo court, and lost, and then I appealed to the UAW International Public Review Board (PRB). The likely hood of a fair and impartial hearing with the PRB is slim to none, because Board members are appointed by the IEB. And like the LAAFs, they too are loyal to those who appointed them, not a dissident who challenges their established political system.

It's for these reasons that I will not waste my time filing local charges against the Recording Secretary, but I will continue to inform my coworkers about the corrupt system she chose to be a member of. The most I can hope for is to humiliate her and the system's Gobs by educating the membership so they'll retaliate by voting the despicable Traitors out in the next elections.

And despite hostilities, I will continue to voice my opinion in my Newsletters. Retaliation by the Gobs and mgt will not sway me; I am stronger than they know. After all, I didn't choose to be a dissident; the UAW and its corrupt self-perpetuating established political system made me one.

The sad reality is the Union's membership is allowing the Gobs and mgt to use their fear of retaliation as a tool to control them. If they don't snap out of their fearful stupor soon and take back control, the last vestiges of unionism will disappear into the vortex.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom
UAW Local 239 Baltimore


*According to the Gobs ratification results

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