- - Sunday, July 30, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As a 21-year autoworker in Michigan, and a forced dues-paying member of the United Auto Workers for 19 of those years, I have watched union officials waste millions of dollars attempting to organize manufacturing facilities in the South. It has done so as workers in those factories have clearly rejected their efforts, time and again.

The union is persistent however, and its hunger for those factories and the money they can provide borders on obsession. Just ask former UAW President Bob King who said while addressing the union’s dwindling membership in 2011, “If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long-term future for the UAW, I really don’t.”

This time, the target is the 6,400-plus workers at Nissan’s facility in Canton, Mississippi, who will have a secret-ballot election August 3-4. Those workers should proceed with caution and pay heed to the long-term consequences of their decision.

For those of us here in Michigan, the UAW is a fact of life. It has been in place since before most of us workers were even born. Like us, most of our fathers and grandfathers who worked in the auto industry never had the opportunity to vote in a union election. We were forced to accept union representation if we wanted to support our families.

Even now that Michigan is a Right-to-Work state, all workers in the bargaining unit are required to accept the union’s representation, whether we want it or not. The same is true in Mississippi. Even if only 51 percent of Nissan workers vote in favor of the union, all workers in the bargaining unit will be forced to accept union representation in every aspect of their work lives. Frequently, that union representation is very adversarial, and workers have no ability to negotiate outside of the contract.

Organizers will make many promises; promises they are under no legal obligation to keep. Between the UAW spending piles of dues money to defeat a decertification attempt and the fear and intimidation that unfortunately is prevalent, voting “yes” for a union just to “try it out,” as some Nissan workers are being urged to do, is not the best strategy. Whether employees like it or not, they will be stuck with the UAW as their only bargaining agent since a decertification vote to remove the union is next to impossible to accomplish.

Outside of union representation, the UAW spends millions on a political and social agenda that many workers find offensive. The residents of Mississippi can expect to see the UAW pursuing their own agenda, spending large amounts of dues money to influence local and statewide elections — that may not reflect the interests of Nissan workers.

We can already get an early taste of the union’s political tactics by looking at the UAW’s attempt to make this unionization vote into a “civil rights” matter. The truth however is that Nissan’s management staff is 46 minority, and 60 percent of workers are African-American. Clearly, Nissan is improving the lives of thousands of minority workers in Mississippi already without the union’s divisive influence.

In the UAW’s own press-release about the upcoming vote, it claims that it is acting “on behalf of Nissan employees,” giving a false sense of authority to its right of representation. There are many, many Nissan workers who want nothing to do with the UAW, yet the union is ready to bundle all the workers together and treat them as if they are nothing more than drone bees in a hive — something this autoworker knows all too well.

Nissan workers have a big decision to make. Do they bail-out a union desperate for their dues money, or do they control their own destiny? Do they tie themselves to a union that needs additional workers to beef up a Retiree Medical Benefits Trust underfunded by about $20 billion, or do they say “No thank you,” to decades of failing union management?

I wish I had the same opportunity as the Nissan employees are getting here. I no longer pay union dues, but I am still forced to accept the union as my sole bargaining agent. This offends me as an individual. I have family needs and desires that lie outside of what a UAW official negotiates for me, and the union’s political and social agenda do not benefit me whatsoever.

Nissan workers are in charge of their own destiny. They must be well informed and willing to listen to this experienced UAW worker as they proudly cast that secret ballot.

• Terry Bowman is a 21 year UAW-Ford autoworker.

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