A previous post here described and shared a 1999 video filmed by the Saginaw-based United Auto Workers Local 699 at an event reminding members to vote for union-backed candidates, including a speaker discussing the union’s political influence in particular with a local judge.
That’s not the only passage that raised questions, however. The video contains a dismal collection of statements reinforcing negative stereotypes about unions, and is relevant today given the presence of the union-funded Proposal 2 on Michigan’s Nov. 6 ballot.
Proposal 2 would give provisions of government employee union collective bargaining agreements primacy over state laws. The UAW's Solidarity House is solidly behind this political campaign, giving more than $1 million to the Proposal 2 campaign through July of this year according to state campaign finance records.
Among the worst of those stereotypes is that unions foment violence. One speaker at this union-sponsored event featured in the video, a fellow named Bill Webster, describes his first day at the Fisher Body plant in Kalamazoo years ago, when a co-worker "encouraged" his participation in a work slowdown by threatening to have his legs broken if he didn’t. Watch the video, below.
Demonstrating further that coercion and intimidation are core elements of union culture, Mr. Webster asks rhetorically, “How do you motivate people?” He answers his own question: “Communicate, educate or put a boot in their ass.” To his credit, Webster downplays the last method, observing “we can’t make our members do anything …” but his own history reveals the steel-toed boot that is ever-present even in union relationships with their own members.
Another speaker discusses alleged worker violence against property at a Saginaw plant, and hints at the coercive nature of even the “worker-to-worker” education program of which the video was a part: Workers who don’t participate may find themselves being “reassigned,” with a strong implication that the change would not be to their liking.
Another segment shows union leaders telling rank-and-file members how they should vote. Webster explains, “We have to communicate and educate them if they . . . don’t think the way we think they should.”
Though disjointed and sometimes contradictory, this video nevertheless reveals just how important aggressive politicking is to the UAW’s leadership. One speaker, John Sangster, spells out the goal: “(T)o elect people there (the Legislature) that would produce laws that would make it easy for us to gain membership and really to exist as unions.”
This year’s Proposal 2 initiative to change the state constitution is about the most politically aggressive measure imaginable, but it’s not the first time unions have tried to hijack state government for their own benefit. The 2008 union-sponsored “Reform Michigan Government Now” initiative went off the rails after a Mackinac Center intern discovered a PowerPoint on the UAW’s website promoting the measure with the subtitle: “Changing the Rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats.”
With this year’s even more radical Proposal 2 — initially and aptly dubbed by the union bosses the “Protect our Jobs” amendment — unions have doubled-down with a power grab that in many areas of law would give those bosses more power than the democratically elected governor and Legislature.