Disgruntled Autoworkers #12
The Claws of Retaliation
Like most Union members,
I left the business of running the Union and its affairs
up to Officials. Why not? Our pay and benefits were decent.
And I may have experienced a few lay-offs and a couple Plant
closings, but thanks to my Union, I was given the opportunity
to transfer so I could keep the same pay and benefits, and
eventually a pension.
Then 24-years later I was screwed out of some overtime
pay. My boss had a friend work overtime on my job. I questioned
the Committeeman and then the Zoneman about it and they
told me that, "Under the New 1999 Living Agreement
with the Company, management reserves the right to have
anyone work anywhere anytime they want." That sucks.
I didn't vote for that and I don't believe my co-workers
That was just the beginning of what I was about to learn
about my Union. I had recently bought my first computer
so I jumped head first into Union Websites. I discovered
most Union's websites glorified the egos of its Leaders
or their endeavors. They were also informative on current
events, but there was nothing to explain why we were in
a concessionary mode and why membership was shrinking at
an alarming rate.
Then I discovered most Unions also have Dissident Movements
within their ranks, some have been active for years. Their
Websites weren't anti-Union, far from it. They were anti-Leadership,
because in the last few Contracts the Union's International
Leaders became Partners of the Corporations. And through
Motions and Resolutions, they set themselves up as a Dynasty
within the Union, making Democracy obsolete, or at the very
least, a major financial hurdle and hardship for any Dissident
Movement that dares to challenge them.
The more I read about the Dissidents and their struggles
to reform the Unions, the more I understood and identified
with them. Within the year I attended a Conference in Detroit
where I met Union Activist from around the country. We formed
a Coalition to inform and educate the membership about the
corrupt practices of the Dynasties that gradually spread
to most of our Locals. I became an Activist.
I was never one to write letters, ever. But Microsoft's
Word 2000 program came with my computer and with it; I discovered
a writing talent I was unaware of. I published my first
Local Letter in January of 2000. It was based on my observations,
hence the title of my Letters. I wrote about a low seniority
member getting a preferred job over a higher seniority member.
The same week I distributed the Letter the higher seniority
member was given the job. I've been writing since.
I didn't sign my first Observations Letters for fear of
retaliation. At the time, I didn't know there were Labor
Laws protecting the right to free speech in the workplace.
Then I met Gregg Shotwell, an Activist from Michigan who
has a whole series of Letters on the Internet called Live
Bait and Ammo. I Emailed him about the nepotism and favoritism
in my Plant. He asked me to write about it and send it to
I wrote "Clingers and Appointees" and sent it
to Gregg. With some editing, he recommended I send it out
Nationally on an Email List he's put together. I was learning
more about my rights so I didn't hesitate to put my name
on it. In July of 2000 I sent it out as Disgruntled Autoworkers
Observations # 1. And from that point on I've put my name
on my Local Observations Letters as well.
Since then I've written 12 National and 27 Local Letters,
a poem, a demand, a few comedy pieces and countless Letters
to International and Local Union Officials, the FBI, DOJ,
NLRB, DOL and a variety of State and Local officials, all
in relation to corruption in my National and Local Union.
I am a thorn in all of their sides, especially for International
and Local Union Officials who've been labeled Traitors by
the vast majority of the membership.
Being an Activist has its drawbacks. Not only am I a thorn
in Union Officials sides. Management isn't too happy with
my Union activities either, because my Letters have influenced
elections and decisions between them and their Union. So
when something slanderous appears, like the circulation
2 years ago of a computer-generated picture of me in a compromising
position, or a recent unsigned letter that reveled indiscretions
of my youth, I don't know whom to blame, because they are
one in the same, like conjoined twins.
The Union is powerless to stop me from publishing and distributing
my Letters because of a Federal Law called the Labor Management
Reporting and Discloser Act (LMRDA). Unfortunately the Law
doesn't apply to management. It should, because they have
a Documented Partnership with the Union's Dynasty.
A few friends and I formed a 10 member Coalition that helped
shake up our Local's Executive Board. And with the help
of a Union Official, who wasn't compromised at the time,
5 of us signed a letter that asked for an International
Audit. The results of which revealed everyone who went to
the Conventions in June of 2002 was caught with their hands
in the Cookie Jar. If that doesn't bring out the claws of
retaliation, nothing will.
In the last few months, the Dynasty and management have
managed to compromise 6 of the 10 people in our coalition, 2 held out and
were retaliated against by being put on Line jobs, but they
soon learned the error of their ways and conformed. Today
they have do nothing Appointed Positions that were created
by the Partnership.
Now there are just 2 of us and we are constantly under
pressure and harassed by management and Union officials.
In February and again in March an extra $100 in Union Dues
was taken out of my check for unknown reasons. I questioned
Payroll and they blamed the Union, and the Union blamed
I went to the Union Hall and asked the President, "Do
you think they're charging me for my Union activities?"
The Shop Chairman interrupted and said, "It'll cost
you more than that." It's just a matter of time before
one of his arrogant threats come back to haunt him. Anyway,
the Union claims they looked into it and found that the
$100 error was made in Texas, where our checks are cut.
Yeah right. I was reimbursed by the Union and they filed
the obligatory hardship grievance.
I did my own investigation and gave the President a Vision
Voucher from the Safety Store. I told him whoever accessed
the company computer to enter the information from the January
Vision Voucher into the computer added the extra $100 deduction to my Union Dues. He seemed
convinced and told me he would look into it and get back
to me. He didn't. The Shop Chairman didn't either, and the
Zoneman fed me that same Texas bull.
I knew they were covering for each other. Management and
their Union were out to inconvenience and harass me any
way they could. Labor Relations recently threatened to bring
me down to Labor and question me about sabotaged jobs. They
know I'm not doing it. They were trying to get me excited
so I'd blow up at them. I didn't. As far as I'm concerned,
someone in management could be sabotaging the jobs.
The Local's Dynasty can't shut me up because of LMRDA,
but that doesn't mean management won't try. They gave me
a Written Reprimand over Observations # 27. They claim I
made false and malicious statements about an employee. Everyone
who's read that letter, including 2 Lawyers, knows I did
no such thing. I wrote my opinion and described a situation
as it went down and that was all.
Management, grasping at straws, conducted a shoddy investigation
by interviewing only 2 co-workers with conflicting stories
about how the situation went down, and they based their
Reprimand on the fabricated story that suited the results
they wanted. The Union filed an obligatory grievance, and
a second obligatory grievance for harassment over the Reprimand
and Labor Relations threat.
Management, hellbent on retaliation, tried to nail me again
before the July 4th shutdown. Someone in my SWG wrote a
Derogatory Remark about a co-worker on a survey. A Union
official told me they wanted to pin it on me. Management's
storm troopers came to interview everyone in the Group,
but the first person they talked to gave them an earful
that took the wind out of their sails. The interview lasted
20 minutes and once they found out I don't do surveys and
I didn't write the remark, the following interviews lasted
only a minute each.
When it was my turn, I told management I didn't do it and
I don't know who did. Then I told them I'd be filing a discrimination
charge against them because they were interviewing everyone
in the group for the Remark, but only 2 people for their
investigation of my Letter. They didn't interview the last
2 co-workers. For what its worth, the Partners Appointed
EEO Rep has been notified and is supposedly investigating.
I would have never guessed in January of 2000 that my Letters
would have caused such a ruckus and brought out the claws
of retaliation from management and their Union. I told a
few members of the Coalition about the Reprimand, and the
following statement is Gregg's dead on assessment of it,
and it fits right in with everything else that's happened
since the Cookie Jar incident, "This latest action
by the company/union reveals how effective you are. It's
a credit to your writing skills and truthfulness. If you
were full of shit they'd let you blow like the wind over
In the words of Don Henley of the Eagles, "I will
not go quietly." Their claws may give me a few cuts
and scratches, but they will only strengthen my resolve.
I know my rights. Therefore, they will not silence me.
UAW Local 239 Baltimore