Fired Teamsters Win Jobs after Illegal Company-Union Collusion

Collusion between the United Auto Workers and a Ford contractor to cut wages and oust Teamsters members was flagrant, says the NLRB—so flagrant that the board is seeking an injunction to get displaced Teamsters their jobs back more quickly.

The December 21 decision by a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge details how Voith Industrial Services, with Ford Motor Co. pulling the strings, underbid a carhaul company that had moved new cars out of Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky, assembly plant since 1952. To make the low bid, Voith prearranged a substandard contract with UAW Local 862, which represents the workers who build Ford Escapes at the plant.

The judge ordered Voith to put 85 named Teamsters to work, pay them nearly a year’s back-pay, reinstate the superior terms of the Teamster contract, and void the deal the company signed with the UAW. The judge also ordered that the decision be read aloud at meetings of all Voith workers.

Under the terms of the Voith-Ford-UAW arrangement, in early 2012 Teamsters who made $20 per hour, with a union pension, were replaced by newly hired workers making $11-14 per hour.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the reform movement in the union, reported on this struggle for jobs by Teamsters Local 89 in August.

A Louisville TV station obtained an internal Ford document indicating that Ford planned to save $9.8 million a year by replacing the Teamster contract with the cheaper UAW contract.

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Teamsters Local 89 repeatedly appealed to the UAW local and international to back away from the deal, including in full-page ads in the Louisville Courier Journal. But the UAW stuck with its plan; union attorneys argued alongside Voith's lawyers at the NLRB hearings. UAW President Bob King, in an email to a Louisville labor leader, called the situation “complicated.”

Voith has cleaning contracts at a number of auto plants, including the Louisville factory, but little experience in carhaul logistical work. Ford set up a meeting in October 2011, and invited the UAW but not the Teamsters, the union that had represented the Louisville workers for 60 years.

Ford awarded Voith the contract, and Voith managers then proceeded to exclude most of the experienced Teamsters from hiring.

In the fight for members' jobs, Local 89 got no help from Teamsters President James Hoffa. Hoffa is generally not inclined to support carhaul members, a more militant section of the union where he has little support. Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman had campaigned against Hoffa in the 2011 election for Teamsters president. And Hoffa's carhaul director stood by while Voith took Teamster jobs at the Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan.

Typically decisions such as this one are subject to lengthy appeals, first to the full NLRB and later to a federal court of appeals. But the case is so egregious that the NLRB's general counsel is going into federal court for a section 10(j) injunction, to speed up the process.

Ken Paff is the national organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union.