Spring 2005


Putting the decision where it belongs
NLRB charges settled at Freightliner plant; new election to follow

The UAW, Freightliner and attorneys for the NLRB have reached an agreement to settle alleged unfair labor practices at the company’s Thomas Built Bus plant in High Point, N.C. The settlement will dispose of all unfair labor practice charges at Thomas Built Bus and allow workers the opportunity to move ahead with efforts to form a union and negotiate a labor agreement.

“This settlement will allow us to move forward quickly, and that’s what we want to do,” said Neils Chapman, president of UAW Local 5287 in High Point. “The anti-union groups would like to keep us tied up in court for years, and that’s not good for our members or for the company.”

Thousands of Freightliner workers have joined the UAW during the past two years, during one of the most successful industrial organizing drives anywhere in the United States. Workers at Freightliner manufacturing plants in Mount Holly, Gastonia, and Cleveland, N.C., are now represented by the UAW, along with parts depot workers in Atlanta and Memphis and pre-delivery inspection workers in Cleveland and Mt. Holly.

The parts workers in Memphis, Tenn., became the most recent members of the Freightliner chain to become part of the UAW. Sixty-eight of the 119 workers at the plant voted in favor of UAW representation on March 2 “We felt it was important for people to have a voice in the workplace,” said Cary Temple, who works in the shipping department, handling rush orders for Freightliner dealers.

The organizing effort brought together a coalition of white, black and Asian workers in the parts depot, said Temple. To help communicate with workers from Southeast Asia, Saschione Butler member of UAW Local 1853 in Spring Hill joined the organizing team. Local union officers from the Atlanta Parts Depot also traveled to Memphis to answer questions and report on the benefits achieved with a union contract in their location.

In High Point, a majority of workers also voted for the UAW during a card check election in March 2004. But the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union group headquartered in Virginia, filed a legal challenge, claming that Freightliner illegally “coerced” workers into signing union cards.

“I’ve heard a lot of silly things said about our union over the years, but the idea that anybody was ‘coerced’ into signing a union card at Thomas Built Bus is just about the silliest,” said UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel. “Freightliner management took a very clear position that it was up to workers to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted a union. How could any reasonable person describe that as coercion? We had an extensive board hearing about the card check and not a single worker could be found who said they were ‘coerced’ into signing a union card.”

“The fact is this Right-to-Work crowd doesn’t want anybody to have the right to form a union under any circumstances. They’re just a front group for the worst type of narrow-minded, anti-union employers,” Casteel said. The settlement, Casteel stressed, does not include any admission of wrongdoing by the UAW or the company. “What it means is we resolve all the litigation, and we put the decision about whether or not to join a union where it belongs: in the hands of workers at Thomas Built Bus.”

The settlement was approved by NLRB Administrative Law Judge George Carson and posted in the Thomas Built Plant on April 4. Thomas Built workers have the right to file for a new election 60 days later.

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