Union Lawyers Target Right to Work in Michigan

Even as then-UAW Veep Norwood Jewell was claiming to be concerned about FCA workers in Toledo whose wages had been slashed, FCA executives were paying for his Palm Beach golf junkets and his lavish parties in Detroit! (Credit: WXYZ (ABC)-TV, Detroit / YouTube)

Big Labor Schemes to Use State Supreme Court to Do Its Dirty Work

In recent years, Big Labor bosses have invested vast amounts of money and manpower into efforts to seize control over the Michigan Legislature and thereby pave the way for destruction of the Wolverine State Right to Work law adopted in late 2012.

These efforts haven’t panned out.

In 2018, for example, would-be House Speaker Brian Elder (D-Bay City) put reinstitution of forced dues and fees as a job condition at the very top of his party’s legislative agenda.

But after all the November ballots were counted, the GOP caucuses who had delivered all the votes for Right to Work in 2012 headed into 2019 with a 58-52 House majority and a 22-16 Senate majority.

Grievance Privileges Enlisted as Pretext to Kill Right to Work

Now some of the same union bosses who have failed time and again to elect legislative majorities willing to reinstate forced union dues and fees as a job condition are aiming to get the Michigan Supreme Court to do their dirty work for them.

And union-backed judicial activists’ pretext for destroying Right to Work protections that voters plainly want to keep on the books are the workplace grievance privileges Organized Labor wields under state as well as federal law.

“Courts have long recognized that, in unionized workplaces, union kingpins effectively own the entire process through which workplace grievances regarding alleged misapplications or misinterpretations of company policies are handled,” explained National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.

“Five-and-a-half decades ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan’s majority opinion in NLRB v. Allis Chalmers bluntly acknowledged that America’s national labor policy ‘extinguishes the individual employee’s power to order his own relations with his employer.’

“At the same time, federal policy clothes union bosses with monopoly-bargaining power.

“Eight years after Allis Chalmers, Justice Thurgood Marshall’s Emporium Capwell decision resoundingly affirmed that union officials control all grievances under ‘exclusive’ union bargaining, notwithstanding any employee attempts to resolve grievances independently.

“Their ironclad control over employee grievances is undoubtedly a boon for union bosses.”

Grievances Were Allegedly Mishandled or ‘Withdrawn Without Explanation’

Three current federal lawsuits filed by a total of 124 Michigan and Ohio workers against United Auto Workers (UAW) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) executives vividly illustrate Mr. Mix’s point.

In Ristovski et al v. UAW et al, 42 current and former Michigan employees of FCA (now known as Stellantis) charge they were cheated out of wages and benefits they were promised by UAW bosses when their pay was cut from $28 an hour to $16 an hour after they switched from part-time to full-time jobs.

When the workers complained about the pay cut, local UAW bosses allegedly promised to file grievances on their behalf — but never did.

In Baltrusaitis et al v. UAW et al, 47 current and former engineers allege that FCA violated its union contract when it transferred them from a facility in Auburn Hills, Mich., to another one in Trenton, Mich. Grievances they filed regarding the matter were allegedly mishandled or withdrawn without explanation by the UAW brass.

In Slight et al v. UAW et al, 35 Ohio workers say their pay was slashed by $8 to $12 an hour after they switched from part-time to full-time jobs in 2013. Two grievances alleging a violation of the union contract were filed. But an international UAW boss subsequently withdrew them, allegedly without telling the workers.

In 2015, then-UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell met with several of the Toledo workers. He purported to want to help them, they recall. But all the while Mr. Jewell was attending “golf outings in Palm Springs and lavish parties in Detroit,” all on FCA executives’ tab.

Union Officials Have Ample Latitude to Refuse to Advance Worker Grievances

Mr. Mix commented: “UAW bosses’ failure to follow up adequately on workers’ grievances in these three cases may seem outrageous to ordinary citizens.

“But the fact is, federal law permits union bosses with monopoly-bargaining power to refuse to advance workers’ legitimate grievances simply because they don’t think it’s in the union’s interest to do so.

“The only reason Ristovski, Baltrusaitis and Slight are still viable now is that the abuses they allege occurred at a time when multiple higher-up UAW officials were being bribed, to the tune of millions of dollars, in exchange for refraining from doing things that hurt the company’s bottom line. 

 “Absent such egregious criminal activity, union bosses may without violating their so-called ‘duty of fair representation’ refuse to process meritorious employee grievances for practically any reason.”

Union Bosses Want Green Light to Wield Their Grievance Powers Vindictively

Even this extraordinarily privileged status isn’t enough to satisfy government union officials in the Wolverine State.

In TPOAM v. Renner, a case now pending before the Michigan Supreme Court, Big Labor is contending union bosses may vindictively refuse to process the grievances of union non-members to punish them for not joining and bankrolling the union.

They claim such overt discrimination against non-members is their prerogative, even when the union contract prohibits the individual employee from filing grievances on his or her own behalf.

“If government union lawyers prevail in Renner,” said Mr. Mix, “Michigan public servants’ Right to Work without being forced to bankroll a union will be eviscerated.

“Although union lawyers’ claims in this case are extremely far-fetched, the possibility of a Big Labor victory is substantial. The fact is, four of the seven current Michigan Supreme Court justices were elected with substantial union political-machine support.

“In an effort to forestall a calamitous ruling, on March 25 attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation submitted a brief to the Michigan High Court laying out what the devastating repercussions will be if a majority of justices ‘reinterpret’ state law as Big Labor wishes.”

(Mr. Mix is president of the Foundation as well as the Committee.)

Citizen Mobilization Is Last Line of Right to Work Defense

Mr. Mix added that the Committee is simultaneously working, through its state candidate survey program, to ensure that in 2023 Michigan has legislative majorities and a governor who will work together to restore Right to Work protections if a feckless state Supreme Court guts them.

“While the current majority leaders of the Michigan House and Senate are on record in support of Right to Work, Big Labor Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is an avowed foe,” explained Mr. Mix.

“But she has to run for reelection this year. ”

“Up through Election Day 2022, the Committee will be mobilizing Michigan citizens who will either change her mind, or, failing that, replace her with a pro-Right to Work challenger.”

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