By on January 8, 2010

The only survivor/of the national people's gang? (courtesy:americanthinker.com)

Thanks to the unionization of the US auto industry, its politics (and accordingly, those of the state of Michigan) tend to be of the center-left persuasion. This tendency was doubtless aggravated over the last year, as a congressional bailout of the industry was denied by southern Republican senators. But even in Michigan, the union-industry alliance isn’t strong enough to counter the trend towards ever more divisive politics, as two recent stories show some of the ideological cracks forming in this now highly politicized industry. First,according to the Freep, the National Tax Day Tea Party will re-open last year’s political wounds by staging a rally outside the RenCen during the Detroit Auto Show this year. The idea behind the rally is to “make a peaceful yet clear statement against government takeover of America,” specifically the government ownership of General Motors. Though it’s clearly an empty gesture intended to rally political support more than change anything, it will be a jarring contrast to the usual convivial mood at the NAIAS. And it’s just one of several ways in which the politicization of the industry is becoming steadily less containable.

Proving that ideological differences exist even within the UAW, one worker has reached out to what might well be one of the least popular organizations in Michigan, the National Right To Work Legal Defense Fund, in hopes of bringing his case against the UAW to the US Supreme Court. The NRTWLDF explains:

Jeffrey Reed, a resident of Bridgman, Michigan, assembles vehicles for AM General. Because his workplace is unionized, he works under a monopoly bargaining agreement which forces him either to join the UAW or pay compulsory union fees to it in order to keep his job. However, Reed, a devout Catholic, believes financially supporting the UAW union violates his sincerely-held religious beliefs due to the union hierarchy’s support for special rights for homosexuals and abortion-on-demand.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, union officials may not force any employee to financially support a union if doing so violates the worker’s sincerely-held religious beliefs. The statute requires union officials to attempt to accommodate the worker – most often by redirecting the mandatory union fees to a mutually agreed upon charity – to avoid the conflict between an employee’s faith and a requirement to pay fees to a union he or she believes to be immoral.

However, because Reed is refraining from full dues paying union membership based on his faith, UAW union bosses forced him to pay a $100 premium and continue to pay 22 percent more than the amount workers who object on non-religious grounds must pay. Both full UAW members and secular objectors are allowed to pay an amount less than full dues if they wish to cut off the use of their union dues for political activities.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in 2006 that the UAW’s policy violated federal law, but the union has yet to change its policy. According to the lower courts, Reed would have to be “discharged or disciplined before he can challenge the UAW’s practice of forcing religious objectors to pay more than the forced dues paid by nonmembers who refrain from union membership for purely secular reasons.” Thus, the NRTWLDF and Reed are petitioning the SCOTUS to declare the policy unconstitutional.

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37 Comments on “Politics Intrude On UAW, Detroit Auto Show...”


  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    Wow, unions. When they stick to defending their workers ok, but when they get into larger political questions…Yikes! No respect for them then. Sorry but that’s my opinion.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I have a solution to Mr Reeds problem. Quit your job and take one in a non union shop. If you want to enjoy union wages and benifits,then I guess ya gott’a pay union dues eh?

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      exactly.  He knew it was a union job  when he took it.

    • 0 avatar
      FromBrazil

      Well Mikey, allow me to respectfully disagree w/ you on this one. I mean could have he got the job if he wasn’t union?

      And, please, I don’t want to get into it as this is not the forum for this, but homossexual rights? All fine and dandy by me but to union’s rank and file? It’s just another case of a minority imposing their will on a majority (union offical vis-a-vis union members).  Or more likely still, the union paying (in this case literally it seems) to have Democratic Party support. Again, homossexual rights are all good to me, but asked to pay a portion of my paycheck to support them, I’d decline, too.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      @FromBrazil,

      Well, it should be a prerogative of the union leadership to make strategic decisions about what’s good for the union.  If they think that equal rights for gays somehow complements or encourages an environment that also promotes worker conditions, happiness, satisfaction, rights, whatever, then maybe they should be able to encourage equal rights for gays.  It might also be useful for them to support equal rights for gays strategically in a political sense…. Our union will support your drive for equal rights, if you also support legislation that helps unions.

      In that sense, their actions may also be said to benefit Jeffrey Reed.

      I’m not entirely in harmony with the UAW politically acting as they will and using the dues of “conscientious objectors” against their inclinations but collective bargaining requires some measure of actual collective action.  It’s not always going to go the way each individual member wants.

      Now, Jeffrey Reed has another avenue open to him; he can work to have a different union replace the UAW, one that is socially more conservative.

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      KixStart-There are homosexual union members.  Defending their rights seems fair to me (especially in a work place situation as opposed to gay marriage or something).

    • 0 avatar
      pgcooldad

      @ FromBrasil
      The amount of union dues coming out your paycheck is a pittance when compared to the rewards/compensation. He should be able to make a nice donation to the Catholic church and ask for perdão for taking the money.
      Honestly, when an you get a job at a a UAW representative facility there is a 90 period when you are on probation before you are officially a member with full benefits. If this guy had whatever issues, he needed to quit before he became a member.

    • 0 avatar
      FromBrazil

      @KisckStart

      Do hear what you’re saying. The idea is where do you draw the line though? How much leadership is good and how much should said leadership reflect the rank and file?

      Any way, you are all blessed so much you don’t know. Here in my “democratic” country I have to give up a day of work’s pay to “my” union. Unionized or not. BTW, though I’m not against unions per se I’m not unionized (in Brazil all workers, manual, liberal professionals, free-lance – yes there’s a free-lancer’s union – have a union to “protect” and “represent” them) as I believe my union is way too political for my tastes. So political in fact all they do is that..politics. Protection of my “class” comes a distant second.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Oh, sorry…but here is where you are wrong.
      The union should not be allowed to donate towards anything other than what will make the represented better off.
      When unions start using deductions from checks for non union reasons, it is plain and simple, wrong.
      Just because its has been, doesn’t mean it should continue.
      Wrongs are always wrongs.
      However, there is no reason or justice to be expected.
      The irrational and the injustices will continue.
       

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    +1 mikey

  • avatar
    carguy

    I don’t get the tea-baggers – they never seemed to care when Bush was wasting their money.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The current president campaigned against the Bush deficits. Therefore, I don’t think many of the people who voted for him expect to do the same, only more so. It wasn’t liberal Democrats who put Obama into office (there aren’t enough of them). It was independents and disgruntled moderate Republicans. If you look, his support has fallen the fastest among the independents.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      geeber,

      That’s true.  But I don’t think the current President campaigned on a platform of, “If the economy tanks, I’m just going to ignore it and let you all suffer,” either.  The Republicans and tea-baggers like to whine about the deficits a lot but they’d be having a bit of a cow no matter what Obama did.  I’m unhappy about the deficits, too, but it’s better than lengthening unemployment lines.

      The Republicans and tea-baggers also like to say that tax cuts can cure all but the previous Administration was all over that and look where we are now. 

      Most economists favored a stimulus.  Even at this point, many are concerned that we shouldn’t let up on it, either, thinking that we are not really out of the woods.  See Paul Krugman’s recent column in the NYT called something like “It’s 1937 All Over Again.”

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The problem isn’t that the stimulus is too small. It’s that the stimulus was poorly thought out – the areas with the highest unemployment didn’t get the most money. It was less of a stimulus than a sloppily drafted payback to various constituencies. That is why it is isn’t working – not because it isn’t big enough.

      As for Mr. Krugman’s column – we were hardly out of the woods in 1936, and if he wants an example of what to do, I would suggest he take a look at how quickly we recovered from the depression of 1920-21. We were up and running by 1922.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Amazing that the UAW won’t budge on this.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @From Brazil…..I look at it this way… If I retain a lawyer to represent me,I don’t ask ,or care what the lawyer does with the money.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    How Mafia-like: join us or pay.
     
    And since this thread is about politics, I’ll note that the forced payment of union dues is identical to the health care legislation we’re about to live under as a nation, whereby each citizen must have health care coverage or else pay a fine.  Never in US history has the citizenry been forced to purchase a product.

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      So, can I return my 1/300,000,000 share of all the military hardware blowing things up in Afghanistan and Iraq?

      Calling it a “fine” is slightly incorrect.  A “tax” would be a more accurate term.  (I’m against the provision, but it’s not that unusual.)

    • 0 avatar
      Juniper

      If one of the “tea baggers” has a heart attack (I hope they don’t) will they call 911 or a private ambulance service? We are forced to purchase Social Security, Medicare, etc. I am sure there are many that do not want their taxes spent on two wars as well. Our control is our vote. whether in a private organization (UAW, PTA etc.) or in government.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @gslipp……Nobody is forced to pay union dues. Only those that  elect to work in a union shop. I just came off of contract job,wages were pretty fair. The boss made it really clear. You will wear a jacket and tie, be clean shaven and presentable everyday. If you have a problem with that……we don’t want you.

     I played by the rules ,and made myself I nice little pile of cash. Oh wait… I should’a said “who give you the right to tell what to wear”

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Now, this:

    “However, Reed, a devout Catholic, believes financially supporting the UAW union violates his sincerely-held religious beliefs due to the union hierarchy’s support for special rights for homosexuals and abortion-on-demand.”

    Has me wondering… just what are these “special rights for homosexuals?”  Is the UAW campaigning to allow gays unlimited access to HOV lanes, or something?

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      “Special Rights for Homosexuals”…does he mean the ability to have the exact same privileges that married people have?  Wow, such a special right…the nerve of a couple to expect to be treated equally.  Well, I guess the bright side is that they aren’t likely to tap into that “abortion-on-demand” thing…
       
      Mikey’s right about the union shop thing.  Back in the day where I worked I was forced to pay union dues even though I didn’t want to join the union.  But since I was the recipient of whatever wage increase that was negotiated I had no choice but to pay the dues.  I decided to join the union and received “free” prescription coverage for my dues.  Was a good deal actually…

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Couldn’t help but notice the derogatory term “teabagger” isn’t off limits. I guess “libtard” must be ok to use too.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Actually, I didn’t know that but, prompted by your comment, I looked it up.  Mostly, you’re right but you should check definitions 6,7 and 9.  Especially 6.

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tea+bagger

      I’m sure everyone here was using it solely in the sense of definition 9.

  • avatar
    Packard

    The UAW has been the single most destructive force in the American auto industry since the mid-1950′s.  That they continue to be so is largely a result of the government “bailout” of GM and Chrysler, which was mostly designed to bail out the UAW.
    Ultimately, as long as the UAW is the dominant force in the domestic auto industry, that industry has no real future, other than as a suckling at the public teet.
    We continue, of course, to pay for this because the UAW continues to force people to pay to support financially political views they personally oppose.
    Auto workers belonging to the union, of course, are the UAW’s primary victims.  The UAW has not saved jobs, nor has it preserved wages or benefits.  What it has done is preserve the jobs of it’s officials and management.
    Ask one of the UAW workers from Janeville, Wisconsin or any of the other GM plants that have closed what the UAW did for them.
    Easy answer:  severance pay.  And now, no job, no benefits, and no future.
    That’s the legacy of the UAW for those still working at GM.
    That’s because the Obama adminstration made damn sure that whomever was running the show at GM would never challenge the union.

  • avatar
    50merc

    As those who use the slang term “teabagger” surely know, it refers to a person who lowers his scrotum into his partner’s mouth.  It is used as a way of slurring those involved in the conservative Tea Party movement; i.e., tea partiers. The B&B should not be, um, stooping to such vulgarity.
     

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Actually, I didn’t know that but, prompted by your comment, I looked it up.  Mostly, you’re right but you should check definitions 6,7 and 9.  Especially 6.
      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tea+bagger
      I’m sure everyone here was using it solely in the sense of definition 9.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I actually didn’t know it had any other meaning aside from the truly vulgar one.  I guess you live and learn.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I think the position left undiscussed here is alluded to by the involvement of the national “right to work” legal defense fund.  In some states, such as my current state of Virginia, the fact that the workers of a location have elected to be represented by a collective bargaining organization does not compel workers to be represented by that union.  Correspondingly, that union cannot compel dues payments or fines from workers electing to forgo the benefits of representation.
     
    According to http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm it appears that most states I can recall that have an active UAW plant (Ford closed vehicle assembly plants in Virginia and Georgia within the past 3-4 years) are not right-to-work states.  That tells me that either the union/politician payola is keeping things this way (which NRTW is probably trying to crack) or the UAW cannot survive without compelling membership from a large minority of workers voting against representation.  The two probably aren’t mutually exclusive.

  • avatar
    stuki

                    The problem has never been, nor will ever be, whether the UAW, or any other organization for that matter, can tell prospective members to pay up or leave.
     
                    Instead, the problem is that those workers that would rather leave, and prospective employers wanting to hire those workers, are somehow barred from entering into mutually agreeable employment agreements.
     
                    I don’t think anyone is against workers joining a union, just against union pandering tyrants paying off their voters and campaign backers by shaking down and bullying around third parties that want no part of the whole charade.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The UAW has been the single most destructive force in the American auto industry since the mid-1950’s.
     
    While they’re not blame-free, they’re no more (if not much less) harmful than:

    Gas prices
    Ralph Nader
    Detroit’s own management
    Toyota

     
    Pch101, who we regrettably don’t see here very often, was fond of noting–accurately—that GM et al’s problem has not, for a long time, been that it couldn’t assemble vehicles as well as the competition, nor for as little money as the competition.
     
    Right up until they declared bankruptcy, GM’s operating cost per vehicle was actually lower than Toyota’s, and yet GM was still losing money because they couldn’t convince people to buy their products for a fair price.  Also, right up until and well past bankruptcy, GM’s plants across North America had been independently verified as some of the highest-quality shops on the planet, and yet their reliability has been mediocre.
     
    The truth of the matter is that the UAW has nothing to do with Detroit’s strategic failures, inept marketing and poor engineering and design choices.  About all the UAW has done is allow itself to be played as a patsy for all the problems of the automakers.  It’s true that the relationship is excessively adversarial (again, this has just about everything to do with how management has taken the relationship) and the compensation and shop rules are problematic (again, management didn’t have to agree to the terms—but they did, knowing they’d win the PR battle and that they’d make the money back some other way), but it’s not like you can heap the whole of the problems on them.
     
    Somehow, the Japanese, Koreans and most of the Europeans have managed labour relations as well or better.  Something tells me you get the union you deserve.
     
    Not only are the

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Holy Tetley Tea!!  Aside from the “Ralph Nader” part, I couldn’t agree more!

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The UAW isn’t entirely to blame, but it shouldn’t be left off the hook, either. The simple fact is that a large part of the union’s leadership justifies its existence by taking an opposition stance to management. This makes instituting changes in the workplace exceeding difficult. And change MUST happen if the domestics are to survive.

      Plus, many of the rank-and-file members are just as out of touch as any top-level GM executive. They are just as likely to blame Consumer Reports, the Japanese, Toyota, etc., for their problems as any GM apologist. Read Robert Dewar’s book, A Savage Factory. The union members don’t come off too well in that book, and the writer was sympathetic to them.

      As for the Japanese and Germans and their unions – note that those manufacturers haven’t welcomed the UAW with open arms at their U.S. plants. And Japanese unions are more like company unions, which were banned in the U.S. by the Wagner Act of the 1930s. There isn’t much of an adversarial relationship there.


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