The United Auto Workers is
about to embark on a $60 million campaign to unionize employees of
international automobile manufacturers in the United States.
As a part of its campaign,
the UAW has issued "UAW Principles for Fair Union Elections," which it proposes should be accepted by the
global car companies. These principles contain fleeting references to fairness
and democracy, but at their core are neither
democratic nor fair.
The UAW Principles were not
adopted through cooperative discussions with the global car companies, but were
rather presented confrontationally as irrevocable demands. New UAW President
Bob King said that “... any company that does not agree to the UAW Principles
is essentially declaring war on freedom of speech and assembly, and it is our
duty and mission to enforce that right.”
At their very heart, the UAW
Principles are anti-democratic. For example, they characterize secret ballot
elections as "acceptable" for determining union representation if a
company has complied with the principles. Acceptable? The secret ballot is a
fundamental principle of democracy. Millions of lives have been sacrificed in
wars to preserve such democratic institutions.
What would the UAW substitute
for the secret ballot? Perhaps their preferred approach would be "card-check," something that not even a pro-labor Democratic
Congress could bring itself to enact when it had the chance.
Even free speech
itself is not acceptable under the
UAW Principles, which would severely restrict the freedom of speech of
employers and their managers during union organizing campaigns. Already, the
nation's labor laws place severe limitations on what employers and managers can
say during such campaigns. The UAW Principles would provide further
restrictions and create a duty on the part of the company "to explicitly disavow,
reject and discourage messages from corporate and community groups that send
the message that a union would jeopardize jobs."
In fact, information on the
probable effects of unionization is crucial to workers as they decide whether
to vote for union representation. It is far better that workers understand the
potential consequences before they vote, rather than find out about them in
layoff notices as production is reduced or plants are close because the company
has become less competitive.
Moreover, the unfortunate
fact is that the UAW has been associated not just with jeopardizing jobs, but
also with destroying them. The UAW watched as 1 million of its jobs and 70
percent of its membership was lost. Over
the same period, the manufacturing plants of the global companies have
demonstrated that American workers can produce cars of high quality, at competitive cost that are the equal of anywhere
else in the world. Some are even exporting cars to foreign nations. All of this
was accomplished without any "UAW Principles."
The UAW Principles are
anti-democratic in permitting secret ballot elections to be bypassed and by
abridging the very free speech that is required to provide workers with full
information on which to make informed decisions.
Wendell Cox is principal of
Demographia, an international public policy firm in St. Louis, and an adjunct
scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational
institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly