Disgruntled Autoworker
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Observations #19
May 2002

Local 239 Election Results

I’ve been a member of the UAW for 25 years; I’ve voted for or against every Local and National contract. I also voted in every election and runoff election since day one. But, like the majority of the membership, except for the last two years, I’m guilty of not attending union meetings.

On average, less than 10% of the membership attends union meetings, and the reasons for low attendance are twofold. First is the manner in which the meetings are conducted. If a member raises an unfavorable issue, like, why are all appointee’s family members or friends of the Good Ole Boys (Gobs)? The Gobs supporters and their appointees will automatically heckle that member in order to embarrass and humiliate them. And hopefully the outspoken member will never speak up again, or better yet, never come to another union meeting.

The second reason for low attendance is that the first reason is effective. The majority of the membership will tell you right out, “I don’t attend meetings because I spoke up once and I was told I was out of order.” Or “I watched someone be humiliated by the membership when they spoke up, so I will never attend another meeting.”

So whom do we blame for low attendance? The Gobs who allow the heckling in order to control and manipulate our meetings? Or is the membership to blame for letting the Gobs get away with their intimidating and humiliating tactics?

The membership is to blame, because we allow the Gobs to conduct our union meetings in an undemocratic and uncivilized manner. Instead of standing up to them, we gave up and stopped attending. The majority of the membership even refuses to vote at the Union Hall because of the unfriendly and hostile atmosphere that the Gobs have created within its walls.

That is the way the Gobs like it. When we don’t attend meetings, they have full authority to conduct the meetings anyway they see fit. And when they control our meetings, they control our elections and our Union.

At our March union meeting we selected candidates for Election Committee Members. The membership was outnumbered by the Gobs by 5 to 1, so 90% of those elected are Gob supporters and their appointees. That means the Gobs get to count the votes in all future elections. In other words, the fox gets to guard the hen house.

Fortunately the UAW had the wisdom to write into the Constitution that all the candidates are allowed X number of challengers to oversee the entire election process. When you have a Gob administration like ours, its highly advisable that all candidates have the maximum number of challengers.

For example, election results for Convention Delegates are questionable, because all 8 Gob candidates were elected. The odds of that happening are slim to none. Although, protesting the election would have been a waste of energy, because only 2 of the 19 candidates had challengers, and not all of them showed up, for a variety of reasons, so we had only 6 challengers when we should have had 12 or more.

The Election Committee is supposed to be working for the membership. Their job is to ensure that the candidate with the most votes wins. However, when 90% of the Election Committee Members are Gob supporters or Gob appointees, they will tend to sway the vote count to the candidates that gave them their appointed jobs.

I’m not saying the entire Election Committee is corrupt, because there are some very honest and dedicated members on the committee. I’m saying the Election Committee Chairman and a handful of committee members are more concerned with keeping the Gobs in power than they are with ensuring the election results reflect the will of the membership.

For another indicator that our elections are questionable, you need look no further than the Rubbermaid Ballot Boxes (RBB) that the Election Committee uses. A 10-year old with a pair of pliers could get into them.

The Election Committee began using the RBB’s during Charley Alfred’s administration, and that cast a dark cloud over all elections since then, including the ratification of our Non-Expiring Living Agreements, but it’s too late to cry about that now.

In early March, a member from Murray Corporation, a couple members from Allison Trans., and a few members from the Truck Plant, myself included, began meeting every other weekend and then every weekend to plan a strategy for keeping our elections on the up and up.

We learned from the Delegate Election, whom on the Committee we could trust counting the ballots, and whom we couldn’t. For our Executive Board elections we had 10 challengers to monitor the counting of the ballots. We should have had 12, because the results from 1 of the 6 tables counting the ballots were questionable. But all in all, we were happy with the end results, and a runoff election for President and Financial Secretary was necessary.

For the Runoff Election we had 12 challengers and we are 100% satisfied with the results of the Executive Board elections, and we are proud to have been a part of the process. And by now I’m sure everybody knows Bud Plummer is our newly elected President with 868 votes to Chuck Millers 632 votes.

The majority of the members at Murray Corp. voted for Plummer with only 4 of their 37 votes going to Miller. The Allison Plant was close with 129 votes for Plummer and 111 votes for Miller. However, Allison’s final count is questionable, because the RBB was locked up overnight at the Union Hall. In the future it should be locked up at the nearest Police or Fire Department.

Again the retirees overwhelming voted for the Leadership Ticket, with 183 votes for Miller, and a scant 46 votes for Plummer. Nonetheless, it was the surprising turnout of the Truck Plant’s membership that decided the outcome of the election. Plummer received 660 votes to Millers 334.

The Truck Plant’s membership should feel very proud. Some members who voted interrupted their vacations, or they cut their vacations short, or they postponed their vacations all together. Others came from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Eastern Shore just to vote. The majority of the Truck Plants membership went out of their way to make sure they voted. And the payoff is sweet.

The election could have very easily gone the other way, but I believe it was the membership’s Solidarity for the petition that united us for a common goal. Once we realized the Gobs scheduled the Runoff election during the Truck Plants shutdown, and they wouldn’t reschedule it, we knew it was a blatant attempt by the Gobs and the Company to steal the election right out from under us. And we decided that there is no way in hell we were going to let that happen.

All three Plants support for the petition, coupled with the Truck Plants amazing turnout for the Runoff Election is proof positive that Solidarity is alive and well in Baltimore’s Local 239. United we stand, committed for change and ready for tomorrow. So come on GM, give us an extension, or give us a new product, we earned it.

Change is Good

We began shaking up our Local Executive Board in October of 2000 when we elected an independent Vice President and the following January an independent Recording Secretary. And now we have an independent President, Financial Secretary, Board member at large, Guide and two Trustees. The shake up is complete.

The beauty of the shake up is that now we have a more diverse Executive Board. I would much rather have an Executive Board whose members are at odds with each other, than one that is united against the membership like we’ve had for the last 15 years.

Change is in the air, it may not happen overnight, but we know its coming and it has to be better than what we’ve had. Everyone should give their coworkers a pat on the back and a round of applause. Yes!!!

Two Memos

Memo to new members: Even though we’ve replaced most of our Executive Board Members, that doesn’t mean you can relax and let them do your bidding for you, because that’s what our generation did. And now we’re stuck with a Non-Expiring Living Agreement, and it took us two years to take our union back from the Gobs who conned us into it. It’s your Union, attend meetings, get involved and stay involved, or risk losing what we still have.

Memo worth repeating: Whether you like the shake up of our Local Executive Board or not, there is only one person to point the finger of responsibility at. Call 410-284-1500, ask for Charley Alfred and tell him what you think. And while you’re at it, tell him the Membership of Local 239 says, “This Bud’s for You."

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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