Worker files unfair labor charge against GM, UAW

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

A General Motors Co. employee at the company’s Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the automaker, the United Auto Workers and UAW Local 5960, claiming he repeatedly was denied his right to withdraw from the UAW and stop paying dues.

Daniel Lowery of Holly is claiming unfair labor practices against the three entities, according to a copy of the charges filed last week by the National Right to Work Defense Foundation Inc. on behalf of Lowery. The foundation says Lowery’s charges — the first it is aware of in Michigan by a UAW automaker trying to withdraw from the union — will be investigated by the federal National Labor Relations Board.

UAW autoworkers in Michigan have the right to withdraw from the union and stop paying dues. Michigan’s right-to-work legislation — which makes belonging to a union and paying dues optional for workers — took effect in March 2013. UAW autoworkers have had the right to opt out of the UAW since Sept. 14, when the Detroit Three’s contracts with the UAW expired and were extended, labor law experts say. The union has since secured new contracts with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co. and GM.

Lowery could not be reached for comment and GM declined to comment on the legal matter, a spokeswoman said.

UAW Local 5960 President Louis Rocha said the local is “making every effort to stay in compliance with the law.” He declined further comment on Lowery’s complaint.

The UAW International did not comment directly on the charge. “It’s premature for us to comment as it happened at the local level,” said Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the UAW.

According to the complaints, Lowery on or about Aug. 31 mailed a resignation and revocation letter through certified mail to GM’s personnel department, the UAW International and UAW Local 5960, which represents hourly workers at GM’s Orion Assembly Plant. Lowery on Sept. 8 was denied resignation and revocation and on Sept. 18 again mailed a resignation and revocation letter by certified mail to GM’s personnel department and UAW Local 5960. He again was denied resignation and revocation on Sept. 24 by the local union, but was told to resubmit it with his name, Social Security number, signature and date, and a witness signature and date, according to the charge.

On Oct. 2, Lowery again submitted his resignation and revocation to UAW Local 5960 and he claims that several days later his “GM boss sent him to the plant union office, where the union rep tried to talk charging party out of resigning. Charging party objected and stated he wanted to resign. GM continues to deduct full union dues from charging party’s paycheck,” according to the charge. The complaints also say that UAW Local 5960 has not responded.

“It is outrageous that nearly three years after Michigan’s right-to-work laws were enacted, union bosses still are blocking workers from exercising their right to resign their union membership and stop paying union dues and fees,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said in a statement. “Instead of respecting Mr. Lowery’s right to decide whether to join and financially support the union, scofflaw UAW bosses simply ignored his wishes.”

UAW autoworkers pay union dues of 21/2 hours of work monthly. For GM UAW members, that money is deducted in the first paycheck of the month; workers are paid weekly.

(313) 222-2319