In an all too familiar scene, Nevada County employees in California are outraged at a recent union election they called "underhanded" and "sneaky," that now means they have to pay union dues or be fired.
"It left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. It was just kind of snuck in," said Mike Sherman, an employee in the welfare department who didn’t hear of the election until after ballots were cast.
Similar groups of frustrated employees have formed grassroots groups opposed to forced union dues in Maine and Washington State in recent years. California, Maine, and Washington State all are without a Right to Work law which would make union affiliation and dues payment strictly voluntary.
Pennsylvania Turnpike employees should watch the Teamsters union-Turnpike Commission talks closely as another union-ordered statewide strike looms.
Why” Past experience shows that Teamster union bosses tried to block Turnpike employees from exercising their constitutional rights to refrain from formal union membership and cut off compulsory dues unrelated to monopoly bargaining.
In recent months, the National Right to Work Foundation helped 28 Pennsylvania Turnpike employees file separate federal civil rights lawsuits against Teamsters union locals 77 and 250, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and two Turnpike Commission officers for illegally seizing union dues from the employees’ paychecks.
The breakthrough came for the Turnpike employees when a federal judge ruled that Local 77’s union policy prohibiting employees from resigning from membership (so-called "maintenance of membership" clauses) likely violates First Amendment.
The federal judge enjoined the Teamsters union locals and the PTC from seizing the forced dues from the employees’ paychecks. But most importantly, the judge found that union officials’ actions demonstrated a “real or immediate danger to their First Amendment rights.”
Union officials commonly use the "maintenance of membership" clauses to trap workers in union ranks. And you can bet that as Teamsters union officials sit at the table with PTC officials, they’ll be pushing for this clause to stay so that union bosses can thwart any employee effort to reclaim forced dues.
With the strike ordered by UAW officials against GM ending early this morning, it’s important to draw a few lessons.
As Patrick noted Monday, the UAW hierarchy was willing to sell out some rank-and-file workers on wages so long as GM promised union officials the ability to organize its nonunion suppliers to bolster compulsory dues revenues.
Second, despite the misconceptions held by some, the fact that union officials can shut down nationwide employers and industries demonstrates that they are clearly still relevant. The widespread impact and attention the strike attracted is proof positive.
Addtionally, because of their ability to compel dues from workers in the 28 states without Right to Work laws, union officials are major players politically. Why just last friday, the AFL-CIO announced plans to deploy 200,000 union operatives and $200 million to influence the 2008 elections.
Some analysts are suggesting that the when UAW union bosses ordered the strike against GM on Monday it was so that the union officials could look tough for the rank-and-file workers, as opposed to being a negotiating tactic with GM.
Goldman Sachs Analyst Robert Barry, expressed this view in a research note on GM prepared in response to the strike:
In our view, the action is designed to allow UAW leaders to look vigilant in fighting to preserve benefits, members to feel concessions are not being given gratuitously, and GM management to appear to be maximizing shareholder value…
If experts like Barry are correct (and he did correctly predict a short strike) that means that once again, union officials were placing their own well-being and power above what is best for the employees they claim to “represent.”
“It’s not exactly what the state needs right now,” said University of Michigan economist Don Grimes. “You’ve got a train wreck in Detroit and a train wreck in Lansing. It’s like a perfect storm.”
“The workers will be getting $200 a week in strike pay,” he said. “Before, they were earning $1,500 a week in pay.”
A $1,300 per-week pay cut is an awful lot to ask of these workers who have families to support. Meanwhile, GM looks to lose nearly $100 million per day due to the loss of production.
Looks like UAW bosses are hitting everyone where it hurts the most: their wallets.
As the tensions between United Auto Workers (UAW) officials and General Motors (GM) continue, one day into the strike employees around the nation are already feeling the aftershocks of being ordered off the job.
MLive.com reports that GM employee Dan Donlin of Grand Haven,
“We built a nice, big, new house five years ago, when interest rates were low,” Donlin said. “Now, I probably won’t be able to afford it.”
“It’s just bad timing for my family.”
While UAW officials negotiate for forced dues, this nationwide strike couldn’t have come at a more challenging time for employees like Dan Donlin.
Forced dues and a forced strike, seems like union officials are attacking employee free choice on all fronts.
In July, Wilmette store manager Dan Schalin told a major Chicago newspaper:
"People felt that the union wasn’t looking out for them. They weren’t earning our union dues."
However, as explained last week, decertification elections like those won by the employees in Chicago are uphill battles and no substitute for passing a Right to Work law in combatting compulsory unionism abuse.
Today’s Chicago Sun-Times reports:
The seven-union affiliates of Change to Win labor federation have a long-term goal of organizing 50 million workers.
How do union officials plan to do it” By focusing 75% of their resources on coercive "card check" organizing, a system plagued by workers’ rights abuse. And of course, workers not in Right to Work states could be forced to pay dues or be fired once organized.
According to the report, Laborers union officials alone have already promised gobs of cash:
The Laborers’, meanwhile, have committed to increasing per capita payments by 25 cents per hour by 2009 to fund organizing. That will create more than $100 million a year for organizing to help it achieve its goal of boosting its membership by 20 percent over the next five years, said General President Terence O’Sullivan.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg:
The federation’s affiliates are committing several hundred million dollars annually to organizing, in addition to teaming up on campaigns, said Tom Woodruff, head of the ("Change to Win") organizing center.
If union officials showed a similar enthusiasm for improving their product maybe workers would be soliciting them rather than the opposite.
UAW union bosses are currently threatening to order autoworkers at General Motors plants across the country off the job at 11 am. As per usual when union officials order strikes, expect threats and/or violence against employees who wish to continue working to support their families.
But for all the media attention this strike will receive, one under-reported fact is that high on the list of UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger and the other top union officials’ list of demands is the ability to force nonunion employees into their forced unionism ranks.
The Youngstown, Ohio Vindicator reported in late August that the ability to forcibly organize nonunion employees is a sticking point in negotiations all around the country:
In the current talks, Automotive News reported that UAW officials in Detroit are allowing GM assembly plants in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Lansing, Mich., to negotiate two-tier wage systems. Nonproduction workers would be paid roughly half as much as production workers.
In return, the UAW would organize nonunion suppliers that handle parts sequencing, building maintenance and nonproduction tasks, the trade publication said.
Union sources reported that UAW officials around the country are considering such arrangements.
That negotiating demand was echoed again in a September 14th Detroit News editorial that noted “the UAW is still holding to the position that it must have veto power over plant closings and contracts issued to nonunion suppliers in exchange for the other concessions.”
So what do rank-and-file workers think of the fact that union officials are willing to make “concessions” just for the ability to swell their forced dues-paying ranks’ Sadly, many are probably unaware of the union officials’ self-serving demands.
But if they did know, their reaction might be like the one Mike Ivey had when he found out that UAW union officials were holding up a promised pay raise in an effort to force him and his coworkers into the UAW union.
Michigan’s unemployment rate in August hit a level not seen in nearly 14 years, as the stagnating job market spurred tens of thousands of working-age men and women to quit the state.
Take a look:
When is Michigan finally going to wake up and smell the coffee”