Anti-Union Group Can’t
Handle The Truth:
Workers Want Representation
It was pathetic, in a way, to watch the
news conference held by the anti-union National Right to Work Legal
Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF) on a recent gloomy January day in Detroit.
There they were, in their fine suits and raincoats,
across the street from the UAW headquarters at Solidarity House. They
set up a podium with a microphone, but attracted just two TV cameras
– one of which they brought themselves.
They announced the filing of a frivolous federal lawsuit and presented
two Freightliner workers -- who have been repeatedly outvoted by their
co-workers -- to slam the union and their own employer. The anti-union
group rehashed their long-ago discredited argument that the majority
of workers who have voted for UAW representation at Freightliner facilities
in North Carolina were somehow coerced into doing so.
But things are moving forward at Freightliner facilities
in the South.
Members of UAW 5286 in Gastonia, N.C., have been too busy building their
union and helping the community to pay attention to the anti-union group’s
“I guess they are just grasping for straws here,”
said President Scott Gordon. “It’s just more scare tactics
and myths about unions in the South.”
Before workers voted for representation in 2003, the plant employed
just over 700 people at an average wage of $20.90. Now there are more
than 1,200 people employed at an average wage of $22.15. Out-of-pocket
health care costs were drastically reduced while health and safety in
the plant was greatly improved.
They’ve developed a positive working relationship
with management and have worked together to improve their community.
They’ve adopted a platoon in Iraq. UAW workers collect baby wipes,
writing tablets and other items, and Freightliner ships it to the platoon.
The UAW local has also adopted a stretch of highway
that workers clean. When the local high school asked for sponsorship
for their sports program, members ponied up. At Christmas, the women’s
committee sponsored a collection to help domestic violence victims.
And when the local fire department asked for donations, UAW members
gave money in memory of a fallen UAW Local 5285 worker at the Freightliner
plant in Mount Holly, N.C.
At UAW Local 5287 in High Point, N.C., Thomas Built
Bus workers recently raised the UAW flag at their plant. The 1,200-member
workforce celebrated their new union with company representatives in
attendance. A new contract was reached in October and includes lower
monthly health care premiums, wage increases and lump-sum payments for
Perhaps the success of the UAW bargaining committee
at Thomas Built has the anti-union group worried that even more unrepresented
workers will follow suit. Indeed, the UAW’s success at Freightliner
facilities throughout the South since 2003 has been remarkable. These
victories for workers were the result of card-check representation elections.
Card-check generally happens when employers agree to remain neutral
during a unionization drive. Many companies hire union-busting firms
or surrogates with worker-friendly sounding names like the National
Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to try to discredit unions.
“Top management at Freightliner and Thomas Built
Buses made a commitment that workers would have a free choice about
whether or not to be part of our union,” Gary Casteel, director
of UAW Region 8, said after the Thomas Built Bus contract was approved.
“They have stood by their word 100 percent and set a great example
for other employers.”
Now it seems the NRTWLDF is trying to make an example
of Freightliner by filing a lawsuit against the company, supposedly
on behalf of employees. But it’s really a bit of thuggery on part
of the Virginia-based group to quiet companies that let workers choose
without employer-sponsored intimidation.
The anti-union group fronts as a worker-friendly organization,
but it has never spoken out on behalf of the thousands of workers who
are illegally fired each year by employers desperate to defeat union
organizing drives. Nor has it ever criticized companies that operate
unsafe workplaces or pay substandard wages. Nor has it endorsed the
right to a workplace free from sexual harassment and other forms of
"We've been dealing with these people for more
than two years now, and every time we win another vote, they come up
with another reason why it shouldn't count," said Niels Chapman,
president of Local 5287.