The United Auto Workers is a union that likes a good fight. But even its leaders recognize a lost cause - for now. This morning the union withdrew its appeal to the National Labor Relations Board challenging a secret ballot election held in mid-February that would have enabled it to represent workers at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga. Despite having committed VW management to silence via neutrality agreement, the UAW lost by 712 to 626. The union immediately claimed the results were invalid due to undue interference by anti-union Tennessee public officials. On February 21, the UAW filed a request with the NLRB to overturn the vote. Yet today it dropped its suit.
By any reasonable assessment, the odds are against the United Auto Workers. But the union is going ahead anyway with its effort to nullify a vote by Volkswagen assembly plant workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. to reject UAW representation. On Friday, February 21, only hours before expiration of the seven-day deadline, the union filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to overturn the election, decided by a 712-to-626 margin. The outcome was a bitter pill to swallow. A victory would have served as a springboard for organizing drives at foreign-owned auto plants elsewhere in the South.
On January 17, Kristie McClarren, former financial secretary of United Auto Workers Local 3061, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to one count of embezzling funds in the sum of $152,639 from the Crestline (near Mansfield), Ohio-based union. She had been charged in December. The local represents employees at the Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in nearby Shelby. The charge follows a joint probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
All eyes, it seemed, were on Tennessee. The stakes were enormous. If the United Auto Workers got to represent employees at the Volkswagen assembly plant near Chattanooga, which opened in 2011, it could create more organizing successes throughout the South. That gambit now is on hold. Last Friday, February 14, the announcement from VW came: Plant employees, by a 712-to-626 margin, voted to reject UAW representation. In choosing to remain nonunion, the majority expressed their preference for resolving wage, benefit and working conditions issues through a German-style 'works council' rather than formal collective bargaining; VW headquarters has instituted such councils at virtually all its plants around the world.
On December 3, Kristie McClarren, former financial secretary-treasurer of United Auto Workers Local 3061, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio with embezzling $152,639 in funds from the Crestline (near Mansfield), Ohio-based union, which represents employees at the Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in nearby Shelby. The charge follows a joint probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General.
On November 21, Jerry Ragster, former president of United Auto Workers Local 3057, was indicted in the Harrison County Court, Texas for theft of $3,372 in funds from the Marshall, Tex.-based union. The indictment follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Membership in the United Auto Workers has declined dramatically these past few decades. But its officials at last may have found a way to recapture the glory days: Team up with the Germans. Last month, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., alleged that an activist board member of Volkswagen Group forced the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker to disclose that it was negotiating with the UAW to unionize its Chattanooga assembly plant. This factory, like other foreign-owned plants in the South, is nonunion. The powerful German union, IG Metall, and VW management are backing the UAW's campaign to change that. The UAW recently announced that a majority of workers there had signed cards indicating their desire to join.
On May 2, Connie Sayne, former financial secretary for United Auto Workers Local 3050, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana to one count of embezzlement in the amount of $25,699.53 from the Hagerstown, Ind.-based union. She then was sentenced to three years of probation and six months of home monitoring, and ordered to make full restitution and pay a $100 fine. Sayne, a resident of Connersville, Ind., had been charged in January with writing unauthorized union checks to herself during June 2010-April 2012. The actions follow a probe by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On April 16, Charlotta Hammons, former business representative of United Auto Workers Local 2209, was sentenced in the Superior Court of Huntington County, Indiana to one year of probation, including 120 days of house arrest/electronic monitoring, for converting funds from the Roanoke, Ind.-based union to personal use without authorization. She also was ordered to pay fees and costs totaling $266. Hammons already has paid restitution in the amount of $1,329 after pleading guilty in March. The guilty plea and sentencing follow an investigation by the Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.
On April 9, Patricia Race, former president of United Auto Workers Local 959, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to six months probation and ordered to pay a $250 fine for filing false financial data on behalf of the Fremont, Ohio-based union. She had been charged in November. No information is available as to the date of a finding or plea of guilt. The actions follow a probe by the U.S. Labor Department's Office of Labor-Management Standards.