UAW Weighs in on GM's “No-Strike Clause”

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UAW strike photoI recently questioned the existence of a binding "no-strike clause" that the media reported on back when General Motors was making a plea for its taxpayer-funded bailout. The claims were that the UAW could not strike at GM or Chrysler until 2015. UAW Communications Coordinator, Tom Brune, has responded and gave a bit of clarification as to what the so-called no-strike clause actually means.

The response by Mr. Brune is appreciated, but we still see this subject from two different points of view. My feeling is that the no-strike clause was misrepresented to the public and implied that UAW workers at GM could not strike until 2015. It seems Mr. Brune feels that the clause exists in the state of a National arbitration agreement as Local UAWs are required to have strikes approved by the International UAW and he requests that I "set the record straight."

So here are some excerpts from Mr. Brune's response. I'll let the readers decide if it was deceptive for Obama's Auto Task Force and GM to circulate media reports that the UAW could not strike until 2015 at a time when support was being garnered for the bailout. The media, as is often the case, also appears to have been less than diligent in its reporting of events surrounding GM.

Here's Mr. Brune's response regarding my question as to whether or not the Local UAW can strike at GM's Fairfax plant, as they have authorized:

"Is a strike a possibility at Fairfax?  Yes, but as I said it must be blessed by the International Union, and they have a very high bar to clear before authorizing a strike, in addition to many touchstones along that path, like umpire decisions and various waiting periods."

"I don't know the specific issues the membership is concerned with, but if they are not legitimate, the International Union will not authorize a strike.  There is no hard and fast deadline in these local negotiations so I expect this will play out for awhile and be resolved without any work stoppage."

Regarding my assertion that it was deceptive not to include facts that Local UAW members may have been excluded from any no-strike clause Mr. Brune states, "I don't recall anyone characterizing this 'no-strike clause' as applying to local negotiations, which you characterize as a 'technicality'.  Please offer proof if you have any.  There was no deception involved.  It appears that you are trying to discredit the National agreement and accuse the UAW and GM of deception because of this 'technicality' rather than plainly stating the facts - that a local Union can strike after exhausting every avenue outlined in the National agreement (including having grievances ruled upon by a mutually agreed upon umpire) and issuing a 5-day letter that has been approved by the International UAW.  The problem is that most people who cover the auto industry fail to educate themselves before weighing in as 'experts' with dubious commentary."

So, there you have it. My take-away is that Local UAW members can strike at GM, but it is a difficult process. I feel the representation of a no-strike clause was deceptive. In defense of GM and the UAW, perhaps the misrepresentation was on the part of the media or by those in the Obama Administration who may have floated the stories. Journalists should do a better job of checking on the accuracy of their stories; however, GM has an obligation to correct misstatements in the media. If Mr. Brune and those at GM do not see the deception, they have a different standard for determining what deceit is. And it gives the appearance to many of us that GM is stretching the truth to suit their needs while supporters attack anyone who dares challenge their questionable assertions.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.

Author's Note: Mr. Brune asserts that the possibility of  a strike at the National level does not exist.