NLRB Update, Allison Recall Rights
One of the latest updates on our National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case against Local 239 president Fred Swanner and the UAW was on 10.26.06. That is when the Baltimore office of the NLRB, Region 5, ruled that Swanner made a mistake when he informed us that we would have recall rights to the Allison Transmission plant in White Marsh, MD if we’re forced to the Wilmington, DE plant. Furthermore, the NLRB’s ruling went on to state that there is insufficient evidence to show that the Union’s actions were based on anything other than an honest, inadvertent error; therefore, they ruled to dismiss our case.
First a little background. In August of 06, three friends and I went to the Region 5 office to present our case on behalf of the Local’s membership. It’s important to note that we filed an unfair labor practice charge against Swanner and the UAW; we did not file a lawsuit. Despite the fact that we were screwed out of 10’s of thousands of dollars because Swanner and a UAW official deliberately misinformed us; this case is not about the money, it is about regaining our recall rights to the Allison plant. Having said that, when we filed the NLRB charge, we were assigned one (lawyer) agent, and later assigned another. I called to ask why they switched agents in midstream. I was told the new agent is more familiar with the UAW. I let them know that we weren’t too happy with this development, but in the end, they have the final say.
When charging documents arrived, we discovered that my name was listed as the charging party, not a group charge as promised by the Agent Of the Day. Also, there was a date misprinted on the charging document. I called to have these errors amended. When new charging documents arrived, the charges were not amended. Instead, a second charge was filed with the correct date; however, it was not filed as a group charge as requested. All of the other info was the same as the first charge, thereby complicating our case, now cases, unnecessarily. We decided to let the two cases proceed as is and hoped for the best. If we had tried to amend the case (s) again, we would more than likely end up with three cases.
The NLRB’s 10.26.06 ruling to dismiss our case (s) was a huge disappointment, because when we first presented our case on behalf of 100 of our Baltimore coworkers, we got the impression from the Agent Of the Day that we had a good case. In fact, it was an NLRB agent who later came up with the Breach of Duty of Fair Representation charge against Swanner, and we thought, the UAW and its representatives.
I immediately called our agent to express our disappointment with Region 5’s ruling to dismiss our case, and I asked about charges against the UAW, especially International Rep Rick McKiddy, whom Swanner claims he was only repeating when he told us we would have recall right to Allison if we’re forced to Wilmington. The agent informed me that Swanner was named on the charging form, not the UAW or McKiddy as we were lead to believe when we originally filed our charges. I asked if I should come down and file another charge against McKiddy and the UAW. I was told that it would be a waste of time, and that we have the right to appeal Region 5’s ruling to the Washington, DC office.
I could understand and accept Region 5’s ruling if Swanner had said on one occasion that, “Yes you will have recall rights to the Allison plant if you’re forced to Wilmington;” however, he said it several times during impromptu meetings in the Baltimore Jobs Bank facility. And he said it two more times during Union Hall meetings in April and June; first with a GM corporate Rep and McKiddy present, and then with Allison’s Plant Manager and Human Resources Manager present. There were 200 members present at both 2006 Union Hall meetings.
GM and Allison Rep’s looked on and did not dispute or correct the info we were given by Swanner and McKiddy at those union meetings; therefore, my coworkers and I made life altering decisions based on that information when we opted out of the Special Attrition Program (SAP), thereby collecting between $35,000 and $140,000. Also, based on that info, some of us opted out of transferring under the GM/UAW National Hire Program, thereby collecting $67,000 in relocation fees from the corporation. And lastly, based on that info, some of us opted out of putting our names on the Allison Transfer List so that we could take advantage of the Jobs Bank’s education and volunteer programs.
By giving us false and misleading info on our recall rights to the Allison plant, with GM and Allison Reps’ approval, since they did not dispute or correct what we were told, we believe Local and International UAW Reps deliberately deceived us so the corporation could save millions of dollars in relocation and SAP fees by forcing 150 of us to the Wilmington plant. Had we all known, like some of our local union officials and a select few in their inner circle who transferred, retired or quit with pockets full of money, that we would not have recall rights to the Allison plant if we were forced to Wilmington, we too would have transferred, retired or quit for the money.
All of the above was laid out in great detail to the region 5 office through written and in deposition form. We also gave detailed information about how the Allison List was posted at the truck plant, thereby setting a precedent, however; Mgt and Local Union Reps refused to post it in the Jobs Bank facility, thereby creating an air of suspicion when a select few were called to the Allison plant hours before the rest of us were notified that we will be forced to Wilmington.
How the Baltimore office of the NLRB could overlook all of the pertinent and detailed info we gave them and rule to dismiss our case (s) surprised us to say the least. Damn right we’ll appeal. Therefore, on 11.07.06 we filed appeals on both cases to the NLRB’s General Counsel in Washington. On 02.01.07 we received a letter from Washington stating that the cases were remanded to the Baltimore office for further investigation and that they will be deferred pending the results of that investigation.
There is a six month window from when an incident happens, or from when you become aware of it, to actually filing a charge with the NLRB, so, since the Baltimore office ruled that our case was not against the UAW, International Rep McKiddy, as we were told by an NLRB Agent, on 01.19.07 I filed an unfair labor practice charge against UAW President Gettelfinger and McKiddy. About a month later I gave a deposition that primarily focused on the Allison List and the secrecy surrounding it. Gail Hardinger also filed a charge relating to union officials refusal to provide documentation that extended the 50 mile area hire radius that resulted in us being forced to Wilmington, without relocation fees. I’ll post updates on my disgruntledautoworker.com website when those cases, and the Swanner cases, are resolved.
There is a lot about the Swanner case (s) and the way the NLRB handled it that could have been done differently, but I will not name names or throw stones. It would have been nice if we had an independent lawyer, but it’s not because we didn’t try. I lost count of the number of lawyers who didn’t return our calls or simply said that they do not get involved in union/corporate issues. They didn’t specify why, but I can guess it’s because the line between the corporations and their unions has disappeared. If they take on one, they’ll have to take on the other, or one will complicate matters to protect the other, which involves more time and money than they, or we, can afford.
All is not lost though. When I gave my deposition for the Gettelfinger charge in February, I asked the agent for an update on the case (s) against Swanner. I was informed that the NLRB was pressuring Allison to honor the Allison List, and pressuring Wilmington to honor our recall rights. Also in February, as if to confirm what I was told, five people on the Allison List, in seniority order, received calls to report to the Allison plant, on a date to be determined. Reinstating the Allison List and honoring our recall rights is major victory. It may take a year or more for some of us to get the call, but just knowing that the option to return to our former communities is available is better than no option.
There are those who will take credit for restoring our recall rights, but that doesn’t matter, whatever floats their boats. What does matter is that we won our recall rights. This development may not please UAW international and local officials, but who cares? They’re the reason we had to fight for that which is rightfully ours in the first place, our recall rights. If they have to eat a little crow, so be it, we’ve been eating it for years, thanks to them. As for Allison Transmissions, do right by us, and we’ll reciprocate in kind.
In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom