On 10.21.06, GM Wilmington management disciplined me for violating Plant Rule #29, “The making or publishing of false, vicious, or malicious statements concerning any employee, Advisor, the Company or its products.” Mgt alleges I made a false statement when I wrote in DA #35 that seniority is not a factor when choosing Team Coordinators; and allegedly malicious statements in my descriptions of Gobs and Yum yums. On a Saturday, I was put on the street for the balance of the shift, which cost me 6.2 hours of overtime. At my insistence the Union filed a grievance.
Past practice has taught me that Union Reps will drag their feet when it comes to resolving grievances, especially those involving sexual harassment, discrimination or free speech issues. More often than not the speed in which a grievance is resolved may also depend on one’s relation to Union or Mgt officials. If you’re a grunt on the line without connections, like me, you could wait a long time for a resolution; however, if you’re connected to someone in Mgt, or a Gob or Yum yum, your issue may be resolved within days, and sometimes without the need of a grievance. It’s unfortunate this double standard, discrimination, exist, but it became the norm when International Reps, Traitors, formed Joint Partnerships with the very Corporations they’re supposed to be adversaries of.
That said, on occasion, I have also filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the Union or GM Mgt for a variety of reasons, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, all of which are posted on my disgruntledautoworker.com website. It’s important to remember that there is a six month window from the time of the incident when filing charges with the NLRB. With that in mind, and my grievance stalled at the second step, on 04.13.07, I filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against GM Wilmington with Region 4 of the NLRB.
The NLRB and I believe GM violated my free speech rights when Mgt reprimanded me on 10.21.06 for statements made in my newsletter. I believe GM Wilmington’s Plant Rule #29 violates the U.S. and UAW Constitutions and the National Labor Relations Act. According to the UAW’s own Ethical Practice Code in the 2002 Constitution, p140, ‘Each member shall have the right freely to criticize the policies and personalities of Union officials.” That is as long as one doesn’t vilify them.
While the bulk of the issues I’ve written about are critical of the UAW’s Jointness Partnerships with the Corporations, their Jointly administered multi-billion dollar Joint Funds accounts, and their collective Joint policies and practices, I don’t believe I vilified UAW International Executive Board President Gettelfinger or his posse when I called them GOBs and Traitors or stated that they should be tarred and feathered. If I did, Gettelfinger and Company would have filed charges against me a long time ago. I was simply stating my opinion and a course of action that may help them see the errors of their ways.
I shouldn’t have to rely on the NLRB to resolve an issue that’s supposed to be my Union Rep’s job; however, in anticipation of an International Rep withdrawing my grievance, and the IEB denying my appeal of said withdrawal, I knew the NLRB would act in an unbiased and independent manner when investigating and resolving this issue. I’m currently appealing the IEB’s action with the UAW Public Review Board, the last step in the procedure, but I doubt very seriously that they’ll rule in my favor. It should be noted that members of the PRB are appointed, Yum yums, and therefore they will not rule against their appointers. At the UAW’s 34th Constitutional Convention the PRB denied all pending appeals. Like Brother Shotwell once said, “They know who butters their bread.”
The PRB revealed its position in the last few letters between us. In April the PRB wrote to inquire about the status of my NLRB case and they also wanted copies of any letters of understanding or settlements. I sent them copies of the charging documents and stated that the case is still pending. I also sent the following inquiry, “I do not understand why a resolution of the NLRB case against GM would influence the PRB’s decision in this matter. The NLRB charge is against GM, not the UAW’s un-democratic pro-corporate anti-membership International Executive Board or its Members. Therefore, would the PRB please explain the relevancy of an NLRB resolution and the rendering of its decision?”
The PRB responded, “The Board members believed that action by the NLRB might have rendered this appeal moot.” I wrote back, “I believe you failed to answer my question. In fact, I believe you are clouding the issue with your vague response. For the record, I am appealing the IEB’s decision to deny my appeal of the withdrawal of my grievance at the third step of the grievance procedure for personal reasons, which thereby denied me my right to due process under the grievance and arbitration procedure. I do not understand how any action by the NLRB against GM might render my PRB appeal moot; therefore, I ask again; Would the PRB please clarify what the relevancy of any NLRB action against GM has to do with its rendering of a decision in my appeal?”
They responded, “The PRB has not yet made a ruling on the issues raised by your appeal. They just wanted to know what happened to your NLRB charge. You will be receiving a response to your appeal from the PRB shortly.” Right, when it comes right down to it, I believe the PRB would rather render my appeal moot than own up to their responsibility of admonishing IEB members for unethical behavior in the handling of my grievance. Their response was on June 4th; over twelve weeks ago and still no response to my appeal. I guess shortly means ‘whenever’ in PRB time. It should be noted that when dealing with the IEB in situations like this, members have only 15 days to respond, unless they apply for an extension. The IEB however, has until the cows come home. The same applies with the PRB. The IEB and members have only 15 days to respond to the PRB or apply for an extension, but the PRB can take forever.
The NLRB made headway in resolving this issue at the end of February when it negotiated with GM Lawyers and managed to get GM to agree to pay me all lost wages and clear my record. In March I received a check for 9.3 hours. Then I checked with personnel to verify that my record was cleared. This is a major victory, but there is still the constitutionality of Plant Rule #29 and a 60 day posting from GM stating that it will refrain from infringing on my free speech rights. On 04.21.08, the NLRB and I filed an amended charge that Plant Rule #29 violates Section 8 (a) (1) of the National Labor Relations Act.
On 06.24.08, all involved parties were notified that a hearing is scheduled for August 25th at the NLRB Region 4 office in Philadelphia. The Agent handling this case felt confident that a favorable resolution is possible prior to the hearing; however, should it go before a Judge, a ruling could take months. I’m patient, it’s been 22 months; a few more won’t matter. On Wednesday 08.13.08, I met with the Agent to go over our notes prior to the hearing. During that meeting the Agent told me a conference call is scheduled for that Friday between GM’s Lawyers, the NLRB and the Judge hearing this case.
GM blinked. On Thursday, GM agreed to a *60 day posting, to rescinding Plant Rule #29, and to include a modified rule in the next “Local Agreement with UAW Local 435.” The conference call was canceled. The NLRB Agent danced around the mulberry bush with GM’s Legal Department for months before reaching a settlement we could live with. My persistence and the Agents tenacity is what saw this case through to a favorable resolution, and for that I thank the Agent.
This is such a sweet victory, not only for me, because I get to write and distribute my newsletters again without the fear of being reprimanded, but also for the entire membership of the Wilmington plant. But wait, doesn’t this victory set a precedent nationwide? I contacted the Agent again for a bit more info and was told the charge was directed at a plant rule, not a corporate rule; however, the Agent wrote, “I hope that by bringing this matter to their attention, GM will "clean up" any other such rules.” Yeah I hope so too.
In the mean time, if one of your GM Plant Rules is worded exactly like Plant Rule #29 above, I want to know about it, and your plant’s location. Forward that info to me at email@example.com. If the rule is corporate wide, I will file a new charge. If you work at Ford, Chrysler, Delphi or any other UAW represented plant with a plant rule worded like the above, I suggest you pursue the same course of action to correct this free speech violation, because we now know that the Union’s GOBs won’t.
As for my pending PRB Appeal, I’ll send them a copy of the GM **Settlement Agreement with a note expressing my outrage that, like the IEB, their lips are too firmly planted on Corporate America’s ass. I wish this free speech victory would shame them, but I know better. Also like members of the IEB, and based on my experience with this case, the appointed Yum yums at the PRB don’t have an ethical bone in their bodies either. I am the one who is truly ashamed and embarrassed that I had to ask the NLRB to do their job. And they wonder why workers don’t want to unionize. They are all so ready to be tarred and feathered.
* & ** See postings below.
In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom
Note; NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES was signed and posted on 09.08.08