Disgruntled Autoworker
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Observations #5
November 2000

Believe It or Not

I've work for General Motors for 24 years and have never known of them ever telling me how to vote on a union contract. However, on top of the paycheck prior to the ratification vote on 08-22-99, GM put a statement that said something like, "Don't forget to ratify the contract" or "Ratification vote this Sunday." I can't remember exactly how it was worded, but it was definitely an endorsement for the contract. (Remember?)

That should have sent red flags up about our living agreement contract that doesn't expire. I for one didn't vote for it, because I saw those red flags and wanted no part of a contract that the company endorses and then tells me how I should vote. There were a couple committeemen who told a few members on the day of the vote that this was a bad contract and not to vote for it. I wish they had the nerve to tell more members than they did, isn't that what we pay dues for?

I understand the need for the union and the company to get along and work together on issues, but the company has no business crossing the line on union affairs and putting endorsements on our checks for or against our contracts. What do you think would happen if the company's endorsement was for the contract and the union wanted the membership to vote against it? You can bet the union would cry foul all the way to the Supreme Court, claiming the company was trying to influence union affairs. As members, we don't have that option; especially without International assistance, and it took a petition to find out just how useless they are.

That endorsement alone was enough to convince me that the company and the union were working a little too close together on this contract. There is a fine line between the company and the union as it is, with the company's endorsement that line disappears completely. What's next? Endorsing candidates in our local union elections? Or better yet, endorse both candidates like they do in the national elections. Whatever.

I wonder whose bright idea it was to put in a non-expiration clause. I would like to think it was the company's, because no self-respecting union man would come up with an insane idea like that, would he? Okay, the contract may have a termination clause, but you know as well as I do the company will stop short their abuses of the membership before they let that happen. A non-expiring contract boggles the mind, because it gives the company carte blanche. Man, what the hell was he thinking?

The non-expiring-company-endorsed contract was presented to us in a bums rush fashion; (remember?) here it is, this is what its about, vote for it or the company may close the doors. Fear and intimidation can be a great motivator to get people to vote for something, especially our lower seniority members, because they carried the vote. That is, if the vote even mattered, many of us believe it was a done deal.

Why did our Ex-President rush the contract vote through a month ahead of schedule and two months ahead of the national agreement? Many believe as I do that we were sold-out. The company's endorsement on my check is all the proof I needed. However, for more proof I checked a couple of dates, one our ratification date and a date from The Sun's archives on Allison's ground breaking. I found something that convinced me even more and may convince nonbelievers, but remember this is speculation on my part, so I'll present the scenario the way I think it went down and you decide if you want to believe it or not.

The question was, "Why rush the vote on the non-expiring-company-endorsed contract?" The answer is Allison Transmissions. Why? Because Allison had corporate welfare in place, $8 million for road projects; $4 million in grants and tax credits; and a $2.25 million loan that they don't have to pay back if they employ, for five years, at least 420 full-time employees beginning December 31, 2002. All they needed to cinch the deal was the non-expiring contract.

We ratified our rushed, non-expiring-company-endorsed contract on August 22, 1999 and that pretty much guaranteed Allison wouldn't have a problem getting the same deal. I believe our contract was rushed because Allison was anxious to break ground, because less than a month later Allison celebrated the start of construction on September 15, 1999, coincidence? Maybe, you decide. Incidentally, Allison's contract was ratified May 21, 2000.

This plan had to be in the works for a few years and our quarterly meetings played a roll in the corporation's decision to relocate Allison here. Our quarterly schedule kept this membership in a docile mode, making it easer for our officials to manipulate and control us so the wool could be pulled over our eyes. With that accomplished, the next part of the plan was to slip this rushed, non-expiring-company-endorsed contract by us to complete the Allison deal. Considering a suit filed by members of Local 594 against the UAW and GM, we know where our boy got the idea from, and for the same reasons, nepotism and favoritism.

I know this may seem a little far-fetched, in fact it sounds like a plot from a John Grisham novel, but if it's as true as I believe it to be, it bothers me to think he'll get away with it. You would think the company's endorsement on our checks is enough proof to launch an investigation on the grounds of collusion*, but from experience I know we canŐt ask the International to look into it, been there and done that.

So I called three local law firms, Mr. Mallon, Silverman and Associates and Labau and Neuworth. They all refused to get involved because, "Nepotism and favoritism are hard to prove and collusion isn't against the law," they said, but I think they turned me down because all I asked for was justice, not millions of dollars. I called the NLRB and they told me there was nothing they could do even though it was unethical for a company to endorse a union contract. The NLRB official told me to try the Justice department.

I related all the above to a Mr. Eisenberg at the Justice department and he also agreed that while it may be unethical for GM to put an endorsement for a union contract on our checks, collusion isn't against the law. He then told me to try Senator Sarbanes.

Again I related all the above to the Senator's aide Sharon Faraone and she too admitted that our situation is a terrible one and suggested I put it in writing and send it to the Senators office. I did and thought finally someone may help us with our hopeless situation or at least find a lawyer who will take up this fight and find something to hang on these conspirators.

After dragging their feet for almost three weeks, on September 21st I received a letter from Senator Sarbanes office stating that our situation is an intra-union issue and should be taken to the appropriate federal agencies. In other words back to the NLRB or the Justice Department. That's one less vote for Sarbanes.

With the benefit of doubt in mind I called both the NLRB and the Justice department again on 10-02-00 and was told the same thing as before. Collusion is not against the law and there is nothing either department can do to help us in this hopeless situation, oh well. And so members of Local 239, after all the above I'm back at square one and that is where my personal battle with our self-serving local officials and the company stands. It looks as if we'll have to eat whatever they put on our plates after all, damn it. Would you like a slice of humble pie with that?

With one last attempt I mailed a certified letter to Janet Reno, top dog at the Justice Department on 10-02-00 detailing all the above and asked her to include Baltimore's local in the investigations that are going on in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and now Indiana, time will tell if that happens.

*Collusion: secret agreement or cooperation for an illegal or deceitful purpose. (Webster's)

"Message Delivered!"

The recent election of Thomasine Parrott as Vice President over a seasoned and experienced union official sends a strong message to our remaining good old boys. That message being, "We the membership of this local will no longer tolerate self-serving officials." Also, to all union members and non-members, whether you like the recent developments in this local or not, there is only one person to point the finger of responsibility at. I encourage everyone to call 410-284-1500, ask for Charley Alfred and tell him what you think. I'm sure he'll be more than happy to listen to your praises or criticisms; it's his job.

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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