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UAW Issues “Principles for Fair Union Elections”

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January 7, 2011

By Jennifer Dunn and Amy Moor Gaylord

On January 3, 2011, the United Autoworkers (UAW) issued a set of “Principles for Fair Union Elections” as it prepares to launch an organizing campaign targeting employees who work at foreign-owned auto manufacturing plants in the United States.  Realizing that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is not likely to become law anytime soon, the UAW developed the principles in an attempt to coerce these employers into agreeing to concessions that will make union organizing easier in much the same way that EFCA would have.

In a preamble to the 11 enumerated principles, the UAW declared that it was “fundamentally and radically different,” and that it was committed to promoting business success through “teamwork and creative problem solving.”  Claiming that the current framework under the National Labor Relations Act “does not protect the rights of workers to freely decide” whether to join the UAW, the UAW called upon employers to endorse these principles to govern union elections and collective bargaining relationships. 

The principles open with the proclamation that the right to organize a union is a “fundamental, human right” and that employees must be free to exercise this right—or the right to refrain from joining a union—without coercion, intimidation or threats.  Included among the principles is the recognition that, during the course of an organizing campaign, there will be no mandatory employee meetings about unionization, unions will have equal access to employees, and management and the union will refrain from making promises of benefits or taking negative repercussions whether the employees choose—or choose not—to organize.  Similarly, the principles recognize that the parties will not disparage each other and will disavow threats from community groups regarding unionization.

Shades of EFCA permeate the principles.  While the UAW concedes that a secret ballot election is “an acceptable method” of determining union representation, the principles encourage the parties to select an “alternative method” for demonstrating employee choice—presumably, card check.  The principles further recognize that, if employees choose to unionize, the parties will engage in collective bargaining and, if no agreement is reached within six months, the parties may mutually agree to mediation and/or interest arbitration to resolve their outstanding issues. 

The principles evidence the latest strategy from the UAW, which has indicated its intent to increase and intensify its organizing efforts across the country.

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