Op-Ed: Ford in bed with UAW on card verification campaign | Opinion
Ford recently announcement an $11 billion investment in electric vehicle and battery plants in Kentucky and Tennessee — a victory for workers in the South seeking to fill the 11,000 new jobs needed to support manufacturing sites. But unlike General Motors, which appears to be taking steps to protect their new workers, the news was clouded by Ford’s neutrality agreement with the United Auto Workers (UAW), a decision that gives the UAW a shockingly unfair advantage in organizing new workers.
Despite its name, a neutrality agreement does not mean that Ford remains passively indifferent to an organizing campaign by the UAW. Far from there. Ford becomes an active ally of the union and can allow union organizers access to its new, non-union facilities, giving the union the ability to distribute literature around the plant and present its sales pitch to potential members.
In addition, Ford has agreed to release workers’ personal information to the union. Organizers can then contact workers in their homes in addition to the workplace – a troubling experience for many that has workers wondering if their jobs depend on organizing support.
As a worker represented by Ford/UAW for nearly 26 years, I can personally attest to the coercion that can come from union officials. The average autoworker would rather keep their head down than fend off these aggressive tactics and risk the income that keeps dinner on the table for the family.
Perhaps most troubling is that Ford agreed to allow the union to mount a card check campaign, bypassing a normal secret ballot election.
There are a lot of problems with a card check campaign, which is a threatening way to conduct an election. A union organizer will approach a worker and ask them to sign a card, permanently binding that worker to a decision on unionization. In the past, union check cards have even been deliberately designed give the impression that the worker is only signing an application to hold an election, but rather that they are real authorization cards for representation.
Card checking also means that workers are denied the right to vote in a secret ballot election. Secret ballots are the great equalizer; the final power play of workers must counter the bullying tactics of a union – or a company – during an organizing drive. The secret ballot gives workers peace of mind that their decision will always and forever remain private and cannot be used against them.
No one, not the UAW or Ford, should have the ability to deny workers the right to a secret ballot election. Workers’ right to vote is not a whim that can be secretly negotiated between a union and a company. All workers must be protected from a company and a union that is prepared to take away their right to vote due to murky bargaining on page 482 of the 2019 collective bargaining OK. Workers’ right to vote is essential to a fair and balanced work environment. Card verification campaigns should be illegal as a violation of workers’ rights.
The UAW, with its years-long federal corruption lawsuit, is desperate for new members and revenue, and eagerly awaits a card-checking campaign. As we know in Michigan, once the UAW is embedded in a facility, it will never allow a recertification vote or any attempt to decertify workers. Once elected, workers are stuck with the UAW for generations to come. It will simply be imposed on them as a condition of employment.
Over the past two decades, Southern autoworkers — when they won their right to the secret ballot — have repeatedly demonstrated that they are uninterested in what the UAW has to offer. These 11,000 future autoworkers in Kentucky and Tennessee deserve those same rights, freedoms and protections.
Terry Bowman has worked for Ford/UAW in Ypsilanti, Michigan for 26 years.
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