In 2002, United Auto Workers union officials struck a backroom deal with German-based auto manufacturer Daimler to strong-arm Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. workers in North Carolina and South Carolina into the union.
Union organizers were given full access to Freightliner workers' personal information and company facilities for the purposes of unionization. The company even allowed union organizers to hold captive audience meetings to pressure workers into signing union "cards" on company property. All the while, Freightliner managers were forbidden from saying anything negative about the UAW or unionization.
Under the agreement, all the UAW union organizers needed was a majority of workers to sign these "cards" and the company would automatically declare the UAW the "exclusive representative" of all the workers, even those who did not sign a card. In exchange, the UAW union hierarchy secretly made wage and benefits concessions at the workers' expense.
Now, recent media reports suggest that UAW union organizers are working to cut a similar secret deal, this time with German-based auto manufacturer Volkswagen, to unionize VW's workers in Chattanooga.
In response, the National Right to Work Foundation announced that it would provide free legal aid to workers who feel unfairly pressured when deciding whether or not to associate with the UAW union. Foundation attorneys challenged the legality of the Freightliner/UAW agreement because it should have been illegal for the UAW to accept organizing assistance from an employer in exchange for selling out its employees at the bargaining table.
In response to our offer of free legal aid to VW employees, UAW union bosses bragged to the press that they "beat" us in the Freightliner case, and they are right: Company and union officials beat Foundation attorneys and the rank-and-file workers we represented in court. Although UAW union bosses may consider that a victory, it certainly was a loss for Freightliner workers in North and South Carolina.
Now, UAW union bosses seek to broker with VW the very kind of "collaborative model" with a "German style labor board" union bosses previously opposed. Former President Bill Clinton vetoed, at Big Labor's behest, a bill that would have legalized employee labor committees that could negotiate with a nonunion company without a union's involvement.
The UAW union denounced the bill, stating that it "would undermine the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively" and "legalize company dominated unions in which management could hand pick who would serve as the representatives for workers." Now UAW union officials are all for VW -- hand picking who would serve as workers' representatives, as long as it is UAW agents.
And of course UAW union bosses would be sure to stack the labor board with their most zealous partisans, while those who don't toe the UAW party line would find their voices silenced.
Most likely, the UAW's embrace of a German labor board is just cover to convince the workers and German VW officials to bring in the UAW for more of the same Detroit-style unionism they brought to the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn.
Under federal labor law, the UAW union must first gain exclusive bargaining powers over VW's workers before a labor board could be created. And despite what promises union organizers make to get workers to sign cards or vote in the union, UAW officials could renege on the labor board idea at the bargaining table with VW, and there is nothing that employees could do to hold union organizers to their promises.
In Chattanooga, like elsewhere, the endgame for UAW union bosses is to gain monopoly bargaining control over as many workers as possible. That is why VW's Chattanooga workers should be wary of what secret deal is behind the UAW's smokescreen before they, too, end up with a raw deal.
Mark Mix is President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, www.nrtw.org