Motion to be Silent
After 32.5 years, one parts plant, three assembly plants and GM with its hand out for a multi-billion dollar loan from the new Obama administration to prolong its self induced bankruptcy, I decided to retire. Like my previous plants in Bristol, Framingham and Baltimore, the Wilmington plant would soon close too. GM was offering a $25,000 Car Voucher and $20,000 cash, Special Attrition Package, to those eligible to retire. My original plan was to retire with thirty five years, but the thought of another transfer or waiting for another SAP wasn’t too promising in light of GM’s financial situation. It was time to take the money and get out while the getting’s good. I retired as of March 31, 2009.
Knowing that Delegate elections for the UAW Conventions are this year, and that most Locals hold their Executive Board Elections as well, I thought it was a good time to transfer from the Wilmington local to the Baltimore local. My new job conflicts with retiree meetings, so I won’t be attending anytime soon, but transferring would put me on their mailing list so I can stay informed of upcoming events. As a retiree, I still have the right to run and vote in some elections and run for Delegate to the Conventions, but I don’t see the logic in driving 70 miles to Wilmington when Baltimore’s Union Hall is around the corner.
On February 2nd I went to the Baltimore Hall to see the Retiree Chairman about transferring. When we met, there was no hand shake, just a nod that will soon be understood. As I was filling out the form I said, “It’s better for this local to get my $2.00 in dues than Wilmington.” He said, “Actually they get a dollar and we get a dollar.” I said, “That doesn’t seem fair.” He was cordial, as was I, and there was no hand shake when we parted. I didn’t understand why my dues dollars would be split between the locals until later.
Like most locals, Baltimore’s has retiree meetings on the third Wednesday of the month. February’s meeting was canceled because of snow. The day after the March meeting I got a call from a friend who told me that a motion was passed banning me from future meetings. He said it was the first time in the local’s history they’ve done that. Wow, I’m honored. They still fear my pen and my voice. My friend also told me he wanted to remain anonymous. If you’ve followed my Newsletters at
DisgruntledAutoworker.com over the years, you’d know that the Good Ole Boys (Gobs) who run our Local and International unions can be a vindictive and vengeful bunch, so I understood his request for anonymity and will respect it.
A couple days later I ran into another friend who told me the Retiree Chairman made the motion, and to get support for it, the Gobs circulated a flyer prior to making it. That’s the same tactic they used in December of 2001. They circulated a flyer revealing indiscretions of my youth, and then the Shop Chairman attacked my credibility from the podium. When I stood to defend myself*, I was shouted down by the Gob’s friends. And like all those years ago, the Gobs had their friends present to second and carry the motion. My friend said some hands did go up in opposition to the ban, so its passing wasn’t unanimous, sweet.
A couple days later I called a retired friend who was the President of her local. She told me that what Baltimore’s Gobs did was illegal according to Article 6 Section 19 of the UAW Constitution. And she told me she believes I have the right to vote and run for some non bargaining positions in the local I retired from, but not in the local I’m transferring to. Her information does make sense, which explains why my dues are split between the locals. Networking with people from other locals does have its perks.
A few days later I went to Baltimore’s Hall to talk to the Retiree Chairman. The following is a synopsis of our conversation; I said, “It’s been brought to my attention that I was banned from the Hall.” He said, “A motion was made that the membership supported.” I said, “Yeah! A motion you made, and you circulated a flyer prior to the motion to get support.” He said, “Right. It was one of yours.” I said, “Which one?” He said, “The one you said ‘we were responsible for your truck’s problems**.’” They’re still reading them, cool. I said, “I didn’t say you guys were responsible, I wrote that I suspected you were. There’s a big difference there.” He said, “Well, the membership supported the motion.” I said, “You can’t do that. According to Article 6 Section 19 of the Constitution, I have the right to attend union meetings.”
Then I said, “Let me get this straight. I’m not allowed to come into the Hall to see the Benefits Rep or attend Retiree Meetings?” He said, “You can come in to see the Rep and attend Meetings, but you can’t vote or have a voice.” I said, “As far as I know, I can’t run for office or vote, which you should know, so what’s the point of making the motion? I would think you’d have had your ducks in a row before making a motion like that.” I sensed that my last remark agitated him. He said, “My ducks were in a row. You’re a trouble maker and we don’t want you causing trouble here.” I said, “If by trouble maker you mean I ask questions or have opinions that conflict with yours, than yes, I suppose I am.”
Then he got thuggish and moved within inches of my face. I said, “What? You going to hit me?” He said, “You going to hit me?” I said, “Why would I?” In thug speak, he said, “You want to go out back?” I said, “I’m not that stupid.” He backed off and said, “You’ve been nothing but trouble since you came here.” I said, “That’s bull. I started my newsletters 10 years after I got here, right after you guys screwed me out of some overtime hours.” He was getting more agitated. He said, “You don’t have any balls.” I said, “I have a right to my opinion and I’m going to voice it.” He said, “I have a right to mine. You don’t have any balls.”
I ignored his childish taunting. Then he got personal. He said, “You’ve always been a problem here, and in Wilmington and Framingham, which is why you live alone in a little house.” I said, “You don’t know what’s going on in my life.” He said, “Yes I do. You don’t know what’s going on in mine.” I said, “No and I don’t care too. What I do care about is what’s going on here in this Hall, with my union. I care that you guys bamboozle the membership with misleading info and BS.”
Then he went all Republican and Glen Beck on me. He said, “We blame you for what happened to the plant.” I said, “What do you mean? It was my fault it closed?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me? I suppose it was my fault GM went bankrupt too?” He said, “Yes, you and the others.” (I believe he was referring to Shotwell, Lund, Hanline, Laney, Jordan, etc…) I said, “See? That’s what I mean. You guys feed the membership BS like that. You’re like Republicans with their death panel BS and hypocrisy, and that paranoid Glen Beck fool who spews nothing but lies.”
Then he got childish again and accusingly said, “All of your newsletters were lies.” I said, “If that were true, then why didn’t you guys ever challenge me by bringing me up on charges?” He said, “Because we didn’t want to waste our time.” I said, “Right, like I’m wasting mine now. Well, this isn’t the last of this. You will be hearing from me again.” He said, “Fine.” I left without shaking his hand. I don’t believe he acted alone. Later I talked to a retired friend who knows the Gobs all too well. We came to the conclusion that my banning was a collective action by local and selfish paranoid local Region 8 gobs hell-bent for revenge, because I exposed all of them in my newsletters at one time or another.
The bottom line is I can’t vote or run for office or delegate to the conventions, at least not in Baltimore anyway, and technically, I’m not banned from the Hall, but I’m also not allowed to
speak. When I was at the last two Conventions, *** & ***, I learned that the Gobs love putting on a show, which is what local gobs did when they passed the motion to ban me. They know the average member doesn’t have a clue about what’s in the constitution, so they made it appear as if they had the power and authority to ban me. If I show up at a meeting, they’ll continue the charade by making it look like they gave me permission to be there as long as I comply with their motion to be silent; hmmm.
If the Retiree Chairman had just filed my transfer and left it at that, I doubt very seriously that he would have seen me again, but nooo, he had to put on a show for retirees, get in my face and act like a thug, a child, and to top it off, go all Glen Beck on me. Now, just on principle, I’ll have to show up when the Gobs least expect it and challenge their motion that violates my free speech rights. To paraphrase Michael Corleone in Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was through with the Gobs, they pull me back in.”
In Solidarity, Doug Hanscom
Soldiers Of Solidarity