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Detroit, Mich. (January 24, 2006) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, five autoworkers from three major facilities today filed a class-action federal racketeering lawsuit against the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and Daimler-Chrysler subsidiary Freightliner LLC. The workers announced the lawsuit this morning at a press conference outside of UAW headquarters in Detroit and allege an illegal scheme to install a “company union” and repeated violations of workers’ rights.
Filed in the U.S District Court for the Western District of North Carolina under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Practice Act (RICO), the lawsuit alleges a pattern of violations of longstanding federal law that bars employers from delivering “things of value” to unions. The RICO statutes are used to prosecute criminal enterprises, e.g., organized crime, gang activities, and union corruption.
The complaint outlines a secret quid pro quo arrangement between Freightliner and the UAW in which union officials agreed in advance to significant concessions at the expense of the Freightliner workers at its non-union facilities in North Carolina in exchange for valuable company assistance in organizing those workers.
Specifically, Freightliner and the UAW union expressly agreed to limitations on wages, cancellation of an employee profit sharing bonus, an increase in the health care costs shouldered by employees, and other concessions. These actions effectively handed certain control of the union over to the company. UAW officials outlined their lengthy list of concessions in a once-secret document titled “Preconditions to Card Check Procedure.” In a related case, the National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel already found the preconditions to be illegal.
In return, Freightliner agreed to provide valuable organizing assistance outlined in a document titled “Card Check Procedure,” including holding compulsory “captive audience” meetings on company time during which union organizers could propagandize employees, granting wide access to unsuspecting employees, and not making any negative comments about unionization. Freightliner also denied employees secret ballot elections when choosing whether to unionize. The “Card Check Procedure” required Freightliner to automatically recognize the union when organizers present the requisite number of signed authorization cards. In such “top down” organizing drives, employees are frequently coerced or misled into signing such “authorization” cards, which are then counted as “votes” in favor of unionization. Workers have also complained that signed cards are difficult to revoke.
“To get help in coercing thousands of workers into union ranks and to obtain at least $1 million in annual dues revenues, UAW officials sold out the very workers they sought to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “It takes tremendous courage for workers to stand up to pressure from both their employer and the union brass, and the National Right to Work Foundation is proud to stand with them.”
The suit lists four counts of RICO violations regarding the enforcement of these corrupt arrangements against the employees of certain Freightliner facilities. The employees seek financial restitution to all employees at the Mount Holly, Gastonia, and Cleveland, North Carolina, facilities in the form of treble damages for all dues seized and earnings lost as a result of the unlawful pact. Additional Freightliner plants known to be covered by the secret agreement are located in High Point, North Carolina, and Gaffney, South Carolina.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.