UAW Solidarity House | 8000 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48214 | p. (313) 926-5000
© Copyright 2013 UAW. All Rights Reserved.
If you've ever found yourself wondering whether your hard work on behalf of working families is paying off, here's a pretty good rule of thumb: When your opponents go on the attack, you must be doing something right.
Case in point: the actions of so-called "civic leaders" in Danville, Ky., last year when they heard that a new UAW local union might be formed in their community. In July 2007 we negotiated a card-check and neutrality agreement with Dana Corp. – which has a plant in Danville – as part of a labor pact that helped bring the company out of bankruptcy.
The process went smoothly at many facilities; within six months, a majority of workers at 11 Dana plants had signed up to be part of our union, bringing more than 2,500 members into the UAW. (See "Growing our Power," Solidarity, January-February 2008.)
But not in Danville. Most companies there have operated nonunion for years, and local business owners and their supporters tried desperately to prevent Dana workers from setting an example for others about how to form their own union.
The mayor of Danville, the county judge executive and the head of a local industrial group issued dire warnings about what could happen to any worker who signed a UAW card. "The employees who are known to be prounion are branded," Boyle County Industrial Foundation chair John Stigall told the Danville Advocate-Messenger. "And those employees have difficulty getting hired for other jobs."
Luckily, union supporters at Danville were in no mood to be bullied. A majority of workers signed union cards in January 2008, and in March they beat back a decertification campaign by an even larger majority.
Not a single card-signer or pro-union voter lost his or her job.
According to The Wall St. Journal, the giant retailer is also on the offensive against working families, with aggressive electioneering aimed at its own workforce. The company is holding mandatory meetings for managers and supervisors that appear to be thinly veiled campaign rallies attacking Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. ("Wal-Mart warns of Democratic Win," Aug. 1, 2008),
"I am not a stupid person," said one supervisor who was forced to attend. "They were telling me how to vote."
Obama must be stopped, Wal-Mart says, because he supports the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The bill, which has majority bipartisan backing in both houses of Congress, will strengthen U.S. labor law, and allow all workers in the United States the right to join a union through the fair, orderly card-check process – just as thousands of workers have done at Dana, Lear Corp., Johnson Controls Inc. and other companies.
Wal-Mart executives must be worried that if workers get a truly free choice, vast majorities will want a voice at work. The company may also be concerned that many of its associates might go to the polls to back Sen. Obama. As described in this issue of Solidarity, (see our cover story beginning on page 12), Obama has a strong record in support of workplace rights, worker safety and quality health care.
A recent Washington Post poll of low-income workers – those earning less than $27,000 a year, which would include many Wal-Mart associates – shows this group backing Obama by 59 percent to 25 percent over Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has opposed an increase in the minimum wage and also voted against EFCA. (See Page 12.)
Meanwhile, in Kentucky and several other states, anti-union spinmeister Richard Berman is back on the air with ads attacking working people and our unions. Berman, a front man for tobacco companies, restaurant firms and other industry groups, is also a paid anti-union campaigner for Smithfield Foods and other companies. Among other organizations funded with corporate contributions, he runs the so-called Center for Union Facts, which pretends to stand up for the little guy against "big labor."
Berman's ads, like Wal-Mart's anti-Obama meetings, are part of the Big Business attack against EFCA. Portraying union members as gangsters, they allege the card-check law will allow unions to coerce workers into signing cards – when in fact it is employers who use the threat of job loss to prevent workers from joining unions.
Berman's ads hit the Kentucky airwaves after labor-backed Gov. Steve Beshear took office and signed an executive order to restore negotiating rights for state employees. The UAW and other unions are signing up members in Kentucky right now, and Berman and his corporate backers are trying to stop them.
Here's a message for Boyle, Berman and Wal-Mart: UAW members are not intimidated by your attacks. Instead, we view it as a badge of honor when you speak out against us – because if we weren't effective, you wouldn't be saying a word about us.