Sunday, February 20, 2011

UAW & Me

When I first started at my last employer almost 20 years ago it was a non-union shop where everyone from the President of the Company to the most recent employees had a first name, which is what was used on the shop floor. We had one or two supervisors who were ding-a-lings but by and large they were competent and decent people. Sadly we had one who, while being generally a decent person, was very bi-polar and subscribed to the shoot first, ask questions later and then apologize school of management. Well one day he blew and said a few things, and before we knew it his crew wanted the UAW.

A friend who was a fork truck driver was approached to sign a card and he declined. The union people surrounded his truck and refused to move until he signed the card. He signed and went to the President of the Company and told him what happened. The union surrendered the card and then complained that the company harassed him into reclaiming his card.

Another friend, who worked in quality control was confronted in the ladies' restroom and asked to sign. When she declined she was again surrounded and told that if she didn't sign she would lose her job when the union came in. She called their bluff and walked out.

We had a vote and the union got its collective backside handed to it.

The union wrote up a list of over 30 irregularities and protested the election. We also got a new human resource manager who was a total jerk to everyone. Two of the "irregularities" had some validity and a new election was called while the new Human Resource, whom I initially liked but quickly changed my mind, created more and more problems. The union won by a couple votes.

Then facts started to come out. Our new Human Resource Manager's father was an AFL-CIO official and his brother was a high official in another union. Our Human Resource Manager's live in girl-friend was a labor lawyer who was frequently working for the UAW. The President of the company said that while their was no doubt that the now dismissed Personnel Manager undermined us and the company, he didn't want the fight to go on forever.

Needless to say, our contracts were not what the union was promising earlier. What really hurt was when the company was sold it still owed us money. (It owed me about $1500). We had to threaten to sue the UAW to get them to act and they got us a 50% settlement in 3 payments over six months. We were basically told to take it or leave it.

Even amongst some of the most fanatical union supporters disillusionment set in. A few years later, the good-intentioned man who initiated our organization campaign later confessed to me that "We are getting zero support from the Region and International. We're too small waste their time on." He acknowledged that he was disappointed, disillusioned and ready to get rid of it. He held an informal survey and found of our 60 or so employees only two really wanted to keep the union, while four others wanted it but could live without it. Our shop steward, while wanting the union, said "What can I say? I sure don't blame you guys."

The new owner was a very good-intentioned, but inept businessman. Personally I thought the world of him and still do, even though three years after the plant closed he still owes me a little. He gave me a 30% raise and everyone in the plant loved him. When the plant was seized by creditors he lost everything, so I am willing to forgive the small amount he still owes me; I lost a couple of hundred and he lost a lifetime of work.

We had begun the process of removing the union but the plant was closing and it became a moot point.

My Great-Grandfather helped found the UAW and he would be spinning in his grave if he knew what had become of his vision. Instead of supporting the workers, which is why it supposedly exists, it actually exists solely to enrich corrupt politicians and their cronies.


Blogger christian soldier said...

my grandfather helped get the union into Chrysler-and-confession time- I was a union rep for the FT..
I did my 'about face!" when I attended my first homeschool convention and met Marshal Foster - who was and is teaching the true history of our Founding- I have never looked back --
So glad that you are back and writing regularly...

9:18 PM  
Blogger dons_mind said...

when i graduated from high school (1969) i took a job with the Sheet & Tube Seamless Pipe mill there in Youngstowh. one of the conditions of employment was to sign that union card. fortunately (for me) i signed up for the Navy in Oct69 - so was only a union member for about 6 months. that was my only experience with a union - nothing like yours s/r...but i'm not a fan of unions now-a-days - see no good in it.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Z said...

Very interesting to read, Shoprat, and very sad, really.
Do you think we could get rid of the unions now or is it too late?

7:57 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Z asks a good question at the end of her comment.

Getting rid of unions now is going to be painful. Very painful. But for the free market to return and for corruption to be rooted out, I think that workers are going to have to take several steps backwards. Otherwise, our economy is going to be held hostage by unions and the complicit politicians pandering to those unions.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

One more thought....My father used to say, "How do you straighten out a pretzel?"

Well, you can do so, but then you don't have a pretzel any longer.

In my view, my father's analogy applies to the mess that unions have become.

8:52 PM  
Blogger dmarks said...

And I just read about another factory that the UAW forced to close in Michigan. Factory's going to North Carolina.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous childcare education said...

Such a great article it was which The new owner was a very good-intentioned, but inept businessman. In which would be spinning in his grave if he knew what had become of his vision. Instead of supporting the workers, which is why it supposedly exists, it actually exists solely to enrich corrupt politicians and their cronies. Thanks for sharing this article.

9:46 AM  
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