Disgruntled Autoworker # 19 October 05
UAW/GM Jointness and a Conflict of Interest
10.01.05; Department Of Labor, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao,
I’d like to begin by congratulating you on the DOL’s victory over the AFL-CIO on May 31, 2005. The courts decision will go a long way in assisting the membership in gaining disclosure on what and where our Union Reps spend our dues dollars. This issue shouldn’t have gone before the courts in the first place, however, it became necessary when Reps excluded the membership from the democratic and decision-making processes within their unions. Thank you.
While the courts decision is a positive one for union members and the first step in righting the wrongs perpetrated on the membership by their Reps, it doesn’t address the lack of democracy at the International level, nor does it allow for membership participation in the decision-making processes within their unions.
What’s needed now is an in-depth investigation into the partnerships the UAW International Union entered into with the Automakers. A partnership known as Jointness, which, among other things, is an overabundance of jointly administered programs that are staffed by a massive army of jointly appointed middle management type individuals, which by design, undermines union democracy and solidarity in UAW Locals nationwide.
As significant as this issue is for my union Brothers and Sisters employed by General Motors, it’s not the crux of the membership’s problem with Jointness, and that is Joint Funds. You may be familiar with the following facts and figures that relate to Joint Funds; but I felt it was necessary to mention them here for the benefit of the membership I’ll be sharing this letter with.
Every hour one (1) member works, GM contributes $.19 to Joint Funds, and $5.19 for every overtime hour. Multiply these dollar amounts by the number of regular and overtime hours worked by the number of members throughout GM Corporation for the last 20 years, and we’re talking Billions of dollars that GM contributed to Joint Funds that’s administered by GM Corporate and Company Management and UAW International and Local Reps without any disclosure whatsoever to the union’s membership.
Based on the above formula, it is without a doubt that the Billions of dollars that GM Corporation contributed to Joint Funds is money made off the membership’s backs. Therefore, the membership has every right to have access to Joint Funds documentation for money that would otherwise go into their paychecks or applied to their benefits and pensions.
Several members around the country have called or written UAW International Reps in Detroit and asked for documentation. Our inquiries are ignored, or we’re told it’s none of our business. The Detroit Free Press even questioned UAW VP Shoemaker about Joint Funds. A May 2001 article quoted Mr. Shoemaker as saying, “I don’t know anything that sets you up as the Supreme Being who has the soul responsibility to make sure the whole world knows about this.” Why all the secrecy if there’s nothing to hide?
And that brings me to the reason for this letter. On September 14, 2004 I was severely disciplined by GM Baltimore’s management (Mgt) because I didn’t have documentation to verify a claim in my Newsletter that a UAW/GM Event, Ballgame tickets and t-shirts, were financed with UAW/GM Joint Funds.
During my disciplinary hearing Mgt stated that the tickets were purchased by an Un-Named source who got them at a discount. My Rep asked, “Who bought the t-shirts?” Mgt said, “It doesn’t matter who paid for what. We’re here because this man doesn’t have documentation to support his claim that the tickets and t-shirts were financed by Joint Funds, therefore, he will be disciplined for making a false statement.”
For 20 years the UAW’s membership has been inundated with Jointness via the ‘UAW/GM’ Joint Logo. We’ve been conditioned and programmed to believe that whenever we see the UAW-GM Logo, be it a UAW/GM Education Program or the annual UAW-GM Quality 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Races, or the UAW’s Wheel Logo and GM’s Corporate Logo side by side on something as simple as a T-Shirt, Key Ring or Pen, we automatically assume the Program, Event or Item is paid for with UAW/GM Joint Funds.
Without access to Joint Funds documentation there is no discernable way for the membership to infer otherwise. In fact, without documentation, there is no way for the membership to know if the money in Joint Funds is faithfully administered in their behalf, or maliciously used to undermine democracy and solidarity to subvert dissention, insurrection, and the natural evolution of the union movement, as a growing number of members nationwide believe.
Simply put, Members of the UAW’s International and Local Executive Boards and GM Corporate and Company Management are responsible for creating this Catch 22 situation, that cost me 44.6 hours pay, by refusing to provide the membership with documentation that discloses where, how much and on what Joint Funds are spent.
I went to the NLRB and filed an unfair Labor Charge against Mgt, hence the Case Number above. The NLRB refused to file a charge against the Union because they fulfilled their duty by writing the grievance, albeit begrudgingly. It was a Herculean effort on my part to convince my Rep to write it.
On 09.15.05 a Local Rep notified me that the Umpire Rep handling my case had settled the grievance, but the settlement wasn’t to my satisfaction for obvious reasons. On 09.19.05 I appealed the Umpire’s decision, attached, to the UAW International Executive Board and await their response.
Ms. Chao, my Union Reps, whose primary objectives are to promote and defend Jointness, its programs and policies, and the secrecy surrounding Joint Funds, are the same people who are supposed to represent me, an advocate of Joint Funds disclosure, and a staunch believer that Jointness is responsible for keeping the One Party Dictator Slate of the UAW International Union in power for the explicit purpose of ensuring the future of Jointness.
In summation, the UAW International Union entered into a Joint Partnership with GM Corporation and is thereby sharing a Billion-dollar Joint Funds account with the Corporation. Therefore, they cannot earnestly and impartially represent the membership when they are Joint Partners and essentially On Retainer for the Corporation visa vie Joint Funds. And therefore, their obligation to Jointness creates a conflict of interest in which Membership Representation is secondary to Jointness.
Ms. Chao, please consider this letter a request for an in depth investigation into UAW/GM Jointness and the Secrecy associated with Joint Funds that resulted in the questionable circumstances surrounding my severe discipline. Regardless of the union’s perfunctory grievance’s resolution, based on the aforementioned information, I think you’ll agree that this Catch 22 situation has the potential to set precedence in forcing Automakers to provide Joint Funds documentation to the membership, whose backs this money is made off, to avoid a repeat of this incident.
I wrote my Congressman, attached, and asked for an investigation into UAW/GM Jointness and the lack of democracy at the International UAW and its devastating effect on our Locals, however, my request was ignored. Also, union brother and dissident, Bill Hanline, an advocate of Joint Funds disclosure wrote you, attached, with a request to view the annual audits of the UAW/GM Labor-Management Committee Trust. And as far as I know, you have yet to respond.
Ms. Chao, are union members to assume Government Officials and Congressional Representatives endorse the anti-democratic anti-membership anti-American programs and policies the UAW International Union and Automakers impose on union members nationwide? Please say, “It isn’t so” by conducting an in-depth investigation into UAW/GM Jointness and the Billion-dollar Joint Funds account that lacks disclosure and accountability to the UAW’s Membership.
I anxiously await your reply.
Sincerely, Doug Hanscom
cc; U.S. Reps & UAW Membership