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
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
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
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
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
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)
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.