The United Auto Workers (UAW) union and its President Bob King are targeting Volkswagen (VW) employees to join their union, a union that has lost 75 percent of its membership since 1980. Headquartered in the bankrupt city of Detroit, home to bankrupt and bailed-out General Motors and Chrysler Corporation, the UAW now, for the first time, sees German-style “works councils” as its salvation. But there is a catch – according to the UAW’s King, you first have to join and authorize his union to be your so-called “exclusive representative.” Why?

Although German and European union officials claim that works councils generally promote open discussion and engagement between employees and employers, the UAW alleges that talking with your employer can only be done if the VW employees are represented exclusively by a labor organization. Well, you need to know the facts.

German and European works councils operate under foreign laws. The United States has its own labor laws. This might explain why no foreign automaker operating in the U.S. has imposed German or European works councils on U.S. employees working at plants located in the U.S.

Second, no U.S. law prohibits employees from talking with their supervisors and managers. Under U.S. labor law, a labor organization is any organization (1) in which employees participate, (2) the organization exists, at least in part, to “deal with” an employer, and (3) these dealings concern grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, working hours, or working conditions. Our labor law defines “dealing with” an employer as an employee group’s pattern or practice over time of making proposals to management, and management responding by agreement or rejection. However, isolated instances of specific proposals to management and management’s acceptance or rejection is not considered “dealing.” Only if “dealing” exists, must it be done through a labor organization or union recognized or certified as the exclusive bargaining representative.

Third, contrary to what UAW’s King claims, the process and subjects discussed in a works council are no different than those discussed by employees and employers generally, and no union is required for those discussions so long as there is no “dealing” on the topics noted above. Can we American workers talk with our bosses? Yes. Can we participate in a brainstorming group discussion? Yes. Can our employer set up a group and delegate full responsibility to the group to decide a workplace issue? Yes.

Investigate and study these issues before agreeing to the UAW’s desire to be your exclusive representative. Ask yourself why the UAW’s membership has dropped significantly. Ask yourself why so many automotive manufacturing employees in our country are working union free.

Get the facts before you sign your name to a UAW petition or card or give your phone number or personal e-mail to a UAW organizer. Signed union cards or petitions are used to get employer recognition, which then effectively eliminates your ability to speak for yourself.

In summary, you have the following rights:

(1) You have a legal right to refrain from signing a union authorization card. Whether you wish to sign a union authorization card is completely up to you. It is unlawful for an employer or a union to threaten or coerce any employee to sign a union authorization card, or to misrepresent the card’s purpose.

(2) You have a legal right to revoke any union authorization card that you have signed. It is illegal for a union to restrict your right to revoke a union authorization card.

You may revoke any union authorization card you have signed by simply signing a letter, card, petition, or other document stating that you do not support the UAW, or that you support another union. That letter, card, or petition should be sent to both your employer and the union whose card you signed. Using certified mail, return receipt requested, will give you proof of delivery.

(3) You have a legal right to sign and circulate cards or petitions against union representation. You have the legal right to campaign against union representation if you choose, provided that it is done on non-work time (such as during work breaks) and in non-work locations (such as in break or lunch rooms). An employer cannot discriminate against employees based on their support or opposition to union representation, if done on non-work time in non-work areas.
If you oppose union representation, signing and circulating such a petition against unionization is perhaps the most important thing that you can do to exercise your legal right to refrain from union representation. Click here to see a Sample Petition.

For over four decades, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has worked in the courts to expand and protect the rights of individual employees to choose to refrain from union representation and membership. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse. The Foundation takes no position about how you should exercise your right to join a union or refrain from joining a union. The Foundation simply wants all employees to be able to make this choice in an atmosphere free of restraint, threats, and coercion.

If you want to learn more about your legal rights, go to the Foundation’s “Know Your Rights” page or contact a National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney toll free at 1-800-336-3600, or via email or by clicking here.