The Constitutional Death of the UAW Part 9
By William D. Hanline and friends.
“Hi! I’m Bill Hanline and I am here asking you for your support and vote. I would be honored to be your delegate to our upcoming UAW Convention.” I practiced that salutation and after meeting, a hundred people or more the words were fixed to my lips like a tune gets stuck on a person’s mind. On many occasions, the person I was greeting would stop me in the middle. “Hi! I’m Bill Hanline and I am here ask”----“YEA! YEA! I know who you are; I just have one question to ask you. Are you going to retire or flow back to GM?” Even long time political supporters asked me the same question. Finally, one of my friends told me there was a concerted effort by members of my local to keep anyone from going to the convention who could retire or flow back to GM under the newly negotiated Attrition Program.
At first, I thought this might have been a conspiracy by my opponents, but then I realized it was something much worse. The members just did not realize that the Con-Con and Bargaining Convention has nothing to do with local union issues. MY co-workers really believed they were protecting their interest by refusing to vote for older members with more seniority. This stigma was very hard to over come. In fact, I never did, for I did not get elected.
The political divisive position I was experiencing grew from, and has been installed systematically in the hearts and minds of our members, by the International Union. Whether intentional or not, it has been the insidious manner, which Gettelfinger and Shoemaker have been negotiating wage and benefits cuts that has nurtured this mistrust. Everywhere I went inside my plants, I heard the same old song and dance by members. - “I don’t trust the Union any more.” - “I have no confidence in the UAW to protect my pension and benefits?”-“What guarantee is there we will have benefits and pensions in the future?”
How could anybody blame them for feeling betrayed and being suspicious? In an April 12 article printed in an overseas newspaper, Ohmy News, written by a pro-labor reporter, “GM Buyouts No “Christmas in March” Ms. Hauben picked up on the feelings of UAW-GM and Delphi employees.
She writes: “Among the workers who are affected by the Delphi bankruptcy, there is the suspicion that the bankruptcy is but a ploy to rid itself of a unionized workforce.”
Ms Hauben Continues: “The fact that there are negotiations going on even though there has not been a membership decision to reopen the union contract, strikes some workers as an ominous sign. If they take early retirement, what is to guarantee them that they will get the retirement benefits they are promised. “No amount of concessions will appease them,” is the view that is voiced about why it is a dead end for workers to go along with the early retirement proposed packages or the contract the UAW is negotiating with Delphi. A strategy of giving concessions, some workers claim, will only lead to more and more demands by the company. “No one should be negotiating in the middle of a contract,” is a feeling that is expressed.”
Finally she writes: “The fact that the early retirement offer is being agreed to by the UAW without consulting the membership and having a vote by the UAW membership, is seen as a confirmation of the loss of membership control over what the union officials do. This leaves out any role for the rank and file and their concerns.” Needless to say, Ms. Hauben assumption that the UAW members have lost control over their leaders is absolutely correct.
Most UAW members have little or no understanding how the International Executive Board operates or what authority they have according to the UAW Constitution. IEB control of the members is accomplished by design so by keeping members ignorant of the IEB’s daily activities. Without being in Solidarity House or in contact with UAW activist who question the leadership’s administrative rights through constitutional appeals, it is impossible to know other members are fighting for your rights under the UAW Constitution. Therefore, the latter makes it impossible for members to learn from various appeals just how the membership has lost control over their International Executive Board members. Or have an understanding that the IEB, rather than acting as the initial protector of the individual member’s rights, has morphed into a group of pandering sycophants, serving the wishes of Gettelfinger instead of representing the needs of the member’s of their constituency. The IEB is more like the king and his court than the constitutionally defined process of democratic representation. In other wards after the IEB members are elected by your delegates during the Con-Con they soon stop acting as your representatives and start pandering to Gettelfinger.
As recently as March of 2006, a group of retired UAW members filed an IEB appeal, submitted per Article 33 Section 3(d) of the International Constitution. In short, the appeal questioned the IEB authority to negotiate reduced benefits for retirees. Were you aware of that? In the IEB’s answer, the IEB accused the plaintiff’s legal counsel of distorting the facts in the appeal. However, the truth is, the IEB and their legal staff distorted the intent of Article 6, Section 15 to make it appear they have the authority to renegotiate on behalf of all UAW members without considering the members voice in any matter.
Here are the concluding remarks written by the IEB. From IEB Appeal, “Robert R. Foster, et al, vs. the UAW GM Department.”
The IEB wrote the following as Part of their concluding remarks.
“The UAW has a continuing obligation to oversee and work towards the welfare of its members. A constant dialog is maintained with the employers of our members in order to stay abreast of their condition as a business so that the Union is well informed to make decisions in the Bargaining process. The UAW works hard to ensure that the employers we work with are Successful, Solvent and solid employers so that we can insure our members a fair days pay for a fair days work in a safe, secured workplace.”
The IEB continued: “Article 6, Section 15 does establish that the International Union is the members’ exclusive representative in matters or disputes of any kind, or character arising out of the employer-employee relationship.”
Here is the distortion, unlike what the IEB’s (Cooperation Partners’) statement says above, Article 6 is a “Membership” article, not an administrative article. Article 7 is the article that deals with “Powers of Administration.” The intent of Article 6, Sec.15 is to assure that the UAW is the ONLY UNION to represent UAW members, e.g. Champion Paper Mills has as many as four different local unions. The intent of Article 6 is to protect UAW members at various sites that have more than one union from other unions stepping in and negotiating terms of employment etc. Thus, Article 6 Sect. 15 establishes the fact that the UAW represents ONLY UAW members strictly; no other union can negotiate on behalf or represent UAW members. Art. 6, Sec.15 does Not, to give the International officers authority to unilaterally and arbitrarily negotiate UAW member’s contracts. Previous IEB members never before conflated the two articles, so why are the Cooperation Partners doing it now?
The underlined statement above is also a distortion of the facts by the IEB. Again, the IEB wrote “The UAW works hard to ensure that the employers we WORK with are Successful, Solvent and Solid so that we can assure our members a fair days pay for a fair days work.” Where in the hell did this come from? Is this stated in the constitution? Work with employers? Where in any legal definition of a Union does it say unions are to work with employers? No where, that’s where!
The National Labor Relations Act, Section 2(5) defines a labor organization as: “Any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exist for the purpose, in whole or in part, of DEALING with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.”