A Michigan union fired back at workers who dropped off the membership rolls by urging its members to isolate them at work.
Jeff Hagler, president at UAW Local 412 in Warren, Mich., sent out a newsletter to about 3,000 autoworkers who belong to the union in December. The letter includes a list of 43 mostly female workers who opted out of membership, as well as advice on how they should be treated in the workplace.
"They have elected to quit paying union dues, but are still benefitting by continued representation by the union. Whether we feel this is fair or not, it is permitted to happen because of this continued attack on unions," he said in the letter, which was first obtained by Michigan Capitol Confidential. "Please do not share any tools, knowledge or support for any of these employees who choose not to pay their fair share."
Hagler did not respond to request for comment.
Local 412’s advocacy for isolating co-workers could hurt the union’s cause, said Vinnie Vernuccio, a labor expert at the Mackinac Public Policy Center, a Michigan free market think tank.
"The UAW is possibly jeopardizing workplace safety by advising its members to not share tools, knowledge, or support with employees on the list, the exodus will likely only grow," he said. "The UAW is simply trying to bully and intimidate former members who exercised their rights. The tactic is backfiring as every time the union publishes the list, it only grows."
The law barred employers from enforcing union membership as a condition of employment, giving workers in the traditional labor stronghold the option to opt out of dues and agency fee payments completely. The unit reported 3,014 members in the spring of 2015, down from 3,144 in 2012 before right to work took effect. Hagler warns his remaining members—98 percent have chosen to remain, according to the newsletter—the consequences of leaving, while noting that they are free to return as long as back dues are paid.
"Your name will be put on a list of all names of those members deciding to opt out of UAW Local 412 and will be made public," the letter says. "If at any time you wish to rejoin UAW Local 412, you will be required to pay all unpaid dues and/or dues in arrears as well as an initiation fee."
Local 412 is following in the footsteps of UAW chapters in other right-to-work states to isolate non-members. Local auto unions in Kansas and Tennessee have each published "scab lists" to name and shame the workers they accuse of being "free riders." Those newsletters, however, advised members to persuade, rather than punish co-workers.
"If you work near one of these people listed please explain the importance of Solidarity and the power of collective bargaining," Tennessee-based UAW Local 1853 said in an October 2014 newsletter.
"It says to talk to them, explain the importance of collective bargaining and solidarity. I’m not trying to intimidate anybody," 1853 president Tim Stannard told the Washington Free Beacon at the time.
Patrick Semmens, a vice president at the National Right to Work Foundation, said that the union’s approach ignores the root of why some workers decide to cease their dues payments.
"Instead of leading this thuggish campaign of intimidation to stop workers from exercising their rights, these union bosses ought to be reflecting on why it is so many workers aren’t willing to support them voluntarily," he said.