By on March 13, 2013

The driving force behind the 12 man protest at Chrysler’s Warren, Michigan plant has gotten the boot.

The Detroit News, which broke the story, reported that protest organizer Alex Wassell was suspended without pay after nearly 20 years on the job. The protest was not sanctioned by the UAW, and led to the leaking of some documents outlining quality problems with the 2013 Ram 1500, a crucial product for Chrysler.

Since Wassell’s suspension, groups like the ACLU and Labor Notes, a union activist group, have spoken out about the firing, which Chrysler described as being due to “…engaging in activity constituting or appearing to constitute a conflict with the interest of the company.”

Meanwhile, the UAW has been curiously silent on the whole matter, which gives us an indirect example of the inherent conflict that occurs when the labor union and the corporate owners are one and the same.

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47 Comments on “Renegade Ram Worker Fired...”


  • avatar
    FordMan_48126

    Let’s see if I can follow this:

    (A) Company asks union, while in mist of bankruptcy proceedings, to adopt more flexible work rules

    (B) Union agrees, to protect jobs and get boatlaod of cash (in form of company contribution to VERBA)

    (C) Company then has the audacity to implement work rules they asked for that union agreed to

    (D) Employee gets upset and staged non union approved walkout in voliation of contracy his union approved because he now has to work Saturdays, at time and a half pay, which he probably has not had to do except on rare occurance over 20+ years.

    (F) Said employee is fired after (more than likely) getting more than one verbal warning from his employeer and his union.

    I don’t see this as much of a story or an issue. he was fired for breaking the rules; there are ways to protest and make your feelings known within a union, and wihin a company…the facts, as presented here and in the newspaper stories do not mention what if anything he did to protest within the rules.

    I have worked quite a few weekends and holidays in my 20+ years in IT, yet have yet to be paid time and a half. I have to be honest and don’t really understand what the real issue is, which is why stories like this make it hard for non-union workers to understand the “plight” of union workers.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a follow up to this piece, which was widely-read a couple weeks back.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/analysis-veba-the-uaw-and-the-warren-walkout/

    • 0 avatar
      Botswana

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. Union workers don’t seem to realize how good they have it. They keep protesting about their working conditions while many people scratch their heads and wonder what they are on about.

      • 0 avatar
        Yeah_right

        I type this as a charter member of the Union Haters Guild. I agree with your sentiment completely but years in corporate HR has taught me that this is hard-wired into people and not (just) a nasty puss-filled boil associated with an organized workforce, although plenty of those exist elsewhere.

        People quickly acclimatize to their current situation and see it as the minimum acceptable position. Any small take-away, like a 2% pay reduction in challenging economic times, generates a ridiculously outsized reaction. And a negative, a 2% pay reduction, causes way more wailing and gnashing of teeth than a positive of equal magnitude, a 2% pay increase.

        That’s why it’s MUCH easier on companies in lean times to fire a few people, who are angry but elsewhere, than it is to have an across-the-board reduction.

        • 0 avatar
          Botswana

          Indeed. I was working in the banking industry during the crash of ’08. Prior to layoffs the company announced no raises in ’09.

          I remember an employee telling her boss about how she could just go find another job somewhere else. Keeping in mind this is the early days of ’09 when not even technology was hiring. She was not good at her job, refused to learn new skills, and generally rubbed everyone the wrong way. I’m pretty sure she kept her job because her son worked there and he was one of our top programmers. Paying her salary was in the price of keeping him on.

          I am no stranger to the utter lack of introspection and perspective most workers have. Although it is amusing when you talk about the non-Union world the union members act as though you’re describing a dystopia and that no job could be worse than theirs or pay less.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      @FordMan_48126

      I agree 100%

      The guy got what he deserved.

      Unions are ridiculous.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    And what were those quality problems? Major or minor?

    I did enjoy C&D review of a loaded 1500 Ram simply for the line “this is what American sedans would be like today if unibody construction had never been invented.”

  • avatar
    graham

    Sounds like an insubordinate employee was fired for cause. I agree with Ford_Man: no story here. zzzz

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Not sure I feel sorry for this guy. If you belong to the union , then you should abide by their rulings or get out. Like it or not, the days of the worker being able to raise all kinds of hell and never have any consiquences are probably gone forever. Unions have a stake in the companies performance now more than ever and isn’t that a good thing, isn’t that something they demanded for years? This isn’t 1965 anymore , act accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      There’s more than meets the eye here. Derek’s tag line sums it up pretty well, “… when the labor union and the corporate owners are one and the same.”

      Alex Wassell organized a protest that was not sanctioned by the UAW. Prior to the death of Chrysler, and within the twenty years of his employment with them, such protests were common and eventually led to the death of Chrysler and GM in 2009.

      Who would argue that the UAW had been good for the US auto industry? Maybe the UAW members, unless their job had been collectively bargained away by the UAW.

      It can be more easily and convincingly argued that the UAW contributed greatly to the demise of the US auto industry. The 6% of the workforce made up of UAW members was bailed out and kept working at the expense of the other 94% of the American workforce. Great for the UAW. Not so hot for the people paying for the free lunch for the UAW.

      So Alex organized a protest under the ‘old’ rules where hurting their employer would result in concessions.

      But these days, now that the UAW is part owner in these failed companies, the shoe is on the other foot and it is more difficult for the UAW to sanction strikes or protests against themselves, since they are part owner in the enterprise.

      I don’t think Alex has anything to worry about. He will be re-instated just like the smokers and tokers at Chrysler got their jobs back.

  • avatar
    geeber

    “Meanwhile, the UAW has been curiously silent on the whole matter, which gives us an indirect example of the inherent conflict that occurs when the labor union and the corporate owners are one and the same.”

    Or, this entire episode provides an example of what happens to someone who is on the outs with union leadership, as well.

    Many “renegades” have trouble with authority in general. Just because he is willing to butt heads with the company doesn’t automatically mean that he loves the UAW leadership.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Ding…….ding…ding….ding..ding!..We have a winner.”geeber nails it”

      I would bet my left testicle thats exatly how it all went down.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Never ante a testicle mikey, I don’t care how certain you are. You just never know. You will be down to one, and at that point, anything can happen.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        As long as you’re not worried about having a “little squirt”, no problem :-)

        As to the article – going loud and public against your employer has never been a good idea, gone are the days of union locals “going rogue” to protect one worker against a perceived offense.

        Things ain’t what they used to be…

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    His mistake was forgetting to smoke a few joints in the parking lot during his protest.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Whistle blower that “stands up” to corporations and loses job after 20 years employment = national hero

    Whiste blower that stands up to now UNION-OWNED corporation = whiny bitch that deserved to get fired for not towing the party line

    Anyone ever read Animal Farm?

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Sure did! “TO-GA, TO-GA, TO_GA…”

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I can’t tell them apart anymore either! Oh wait. The farmers would have been vilified and sued into submission for things the pigs do by nature. The pigs have been allowed to violate anyone else’s rights to further their own purposes for decades. Why would that change now that they’ve stolen the farms?

    • 0 avatar
      keet

      “stands up” …for what?!? having to do a job he agreed to (by being in said union)??? sounds like a crybaby who didn’t have to do much for the last 20 years and is now scared because they actually expect him to do something

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        If you read the original article in the Detroit News, the problem is that the company(Fiat? UAW?)’s practices are leading to barely half the trucks leaving the line being good enough to ship. That’s what they’re trying to shut him down for leaking, some would say whistle blowing. He was standing up for consumers and standing up for all worthwhile workers, who want to take pride in what they produce.

        • 0 avatar
          MrIcky

          Another way to read this though is that quality control has stepped up and they’re not letting slipshod work through like they did in the past. Requiring workers to stay and fix bad work. Sounds like management standing up for the consumers while the employees aren’t buying in.

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          Read the comments section of the other article. Industry nerds commented enough on the EOL FTT %’s.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      …and now the UAW leaders get a taste of steering the ship and they do to a member exactly what they would have fought against not five years prior. Hypocrites.

  • avatar

    I have a Employee who works part time for myself, he is also emplpoyed in the Repairing of Cars and Trucks, he says the parts supplied from Chysler are “Kramp” or words to that effect, so I think Chrysler has a problem with Quality. The article from the Detoit News more or less backs this up, time will tell I think?

  • avatar
    redav

    As I read this, I can’t help but think of the workers who were fired & reinstated for drinking/doing drugs on their lunch break.

    Which is the more fireable offense?

  • avatar
    dzwax

    Found this

    “A Chrysler spokesman said that a thousand new workers are being trained now, and will start next week.”

    If true, then how does this bit of information relate to current production, morale, and quality?

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Its called adding a third shift…should improve morale as it means business is booming.

      http://europe.autonews.com/article/20121115/OEM01/121119930/chrysler-to-boost-output-of-2013-rams-v-6-engines#axzz2NT5Ns58z

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      It probably has something to do with the EOL pass rate. You have to start somewhere when training a worker.

  • avatar
    Commando

    You know squat about unions.
    If there is a no-strike clause while a contract is in effect, the union is subject to extremely heavy penalties. A renagade group walking out is considered a strike which is something the Union would never allow. You walk out, kiss any real support from the union goodbye. You put the whole union in jeopardy.
    You guys crack me up with all the suggestive euphemisms that the Union now being part of the overall makeup of The Board makes the union playing both sides of the table.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    So after reading the articles, we have a substantial amount of the product leaving the line with identifiable defects, no doubt much higher than before. Before what? Well, new model. OK, that’s to be expected. Before horrific worker moral. Again, to be expected. Nothing will drive worker productivity and quality into the toilet faster than a degraded workforce. Some may say (or have said) that they are just a bunch of babies! “You have a job! BE GRATEFUL” or “So what you are working longer days, Saturdays, or split shifts! You get paid well, and make overtime to boot! I don’t get that and I work extra hours”….well assembly work was pretty structured time wise. Now you are asking, no telling your employees that you will have different days, longer days, Saturdays, splits between day/night shifts. How does a family adopt to such changes with school, activities, other work, daycare, and having a decent quality of life? Then they look to their union for answers and support, only to find that the union says that a decade ago you guys voted to allow this, so sorry. And they wonder why moral and product quality sucks? Management took the FU approach which simply underscores that the owners don’t care about them. In turn the workers are telling management FU, too. What a shame. Proper management and setting expectations would have helped eliminate much of this. Maybe we are ready for a new show: Factory Rescue….

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      I think “Factory Shutdown” would be better. Move it somewhere where people appreciate the opportunity and don’t have to join the mafia in order to get a paycheck.

      Too late for that I guess. My tax money was somehow given to the mafia as well, so I suppose we all work for them now.

  • avatar
    ToxicSludge

    So the bottom line when all is said and done is the consumer gets an expensive,known pos?

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Cripes! Chrysler factory workers smoke pot and guzzle alcohol on their lunch breaks and get to keep their jobs. This guy complains a little and gets fired. Swell.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      That’s because this guy actually endangered exposing the UAW for the hypocrites they are.

      What worked for the UAW in the past is now a no-no because the UAW is part owner in this foreign-owned venture. And the UAW knows that Sergio and the Fiat BoD is not going to put up with their BS. That was proven early on when Fiat took possession of Chrysler’s carcass.

      This was just an ‘attitude adjustment’ for Alex, administered by the UAW. He’ll get to keep his job. And he will keep his mouth shut until he retires!

  • avatar
    tedward

    “which gives us an indirect example of the inherent conflict that occurs when the labor union and the corporate owners are one and the same.”

    I don’t see this as example of a conflict. There was an employee whose actions damaged both the company and the union, he got exactly what I would get for acting in such a manner. What I see here is a union letting one of their own face the discipline he deserves. My issue with unions has always been their inability to allow that to occur. For example, I’ve seen guys screaming in people’s faces about getting work orders done a certain way, with no regard for the fact that he’s technically addressing a client. Those are exactly the type of bad apples that unions protect at their own peril. In this case the man’s actions had a far bigger impact on the company than simply being rude to one customer, and fired he should be.

    For what it’s worth I don’t have a problem with unions, but dealing with them frequently for work I’ve realized that 90+% of those guys do a good job and are a pleasure to work with. Their weakness is they have almost zero quality control and actively protect the 10% who should never have gotten the job in the first place.


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