As they continue a long-running campaign to secure monopoly-bargaining privileges over front-line employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, a city in southeastern Tennessee, United Auto Workers (UAW) union bosses talk a good game about how, once they acquire the power to negotiate with management over wages, benefits, and work rules for union members and nonmembers alike, they will respect employees’ Right to Work , in accord with state law.
Early this year, Gary Casteel, then a UAW regional director and now secretary-treasurer, actually went on record as to why he, as Washington Post reporter Lydia DePillis put it, “prefers right-to-work environments” for organizing. It helps the union, Casteel acknowledged, to be able to tell workers who are skeptical about whether unionization would benefit them: “You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to.”
In contrast, in a forced-unionism state, the implicit message sent to workers by union organizers, in Casteel’s own words, is: “If we get 50% of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like it or not.” It’s much easier to persuade reluctant workers not to oppose unionization actively, Casteel concluded, when the law tells them that, “if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”
Unfortunately for Tennessee employees, it’s one thing for a UAW union official to take advantage of the reassurance Right to Work laws give employees that they won’t have to bankroll a harmful union during an organizing drive, and it’s another thing completely for him to respect workers’ freedom not to join once a union is installed.
As the Washington Free Beacon reported this week (see the first link below), UAW bosses at the GM Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., (which closed when the union boss-dominated company went broke in 2009, but reopened after the company reemerged, with ample taxpayer subsidies, from bankruptcy) are resorting to intimidation tactics to extract dues from employees who don’t think the union has earned them:
UAW Local 1853 published a “Scab Report,” listing the names and work stations of more than 40 workers at the Spring Hill General Motors plant. The list has found its way into the plant, according to a photo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
“The following individuals are NON-dues paying workers. They have chosen to STOP paying Union Dues . . . ,” the sign says. “If you work near one of these people listed please explain the importance of Solidarity and the power of collective bargaining.”
One employee who requested anonymity for fear of retribution from the union said that harassment began soon after the report was released. Three different people approached him last week, two of whom were hostile.
“They put our names out there so people will pressure us,” the worker said. “One guy called me a scab outright. I don’t appreciate that. I was disgusted by it.”
Local union president Tim Stannard admitted to publishing the list.
“Scab lists” in Tennessee and other Right to Work states (see the second link below) speak to the fact that, when UAW bosses actually come across workers who don’t think the union is, to quote Casteel again, “earning its keep,” they don’t actually respect their right not to pay dues. But at least in Right to Work states UAW and other union bosses don’t have the legal power to force employees to bankroll a union they honestly believe doesn’t benefit them.