News Story

Worker Bullied as UAW Publicizes His Opt-out

Employee worries his union has made him a target

Another Michigan union has used its newsletter to post the names of employees who have chosen to exercise their right to not have to financially support a union as a condition of employment. Workers say the union is bullying them and creating a hostile work environment.

This time, it’s UAW Local 600 that’s publishing the names of employees who chose to opt out of belonging and paying dues to the union.

Bob Brezovsky, president of the UAW’s Tool & Die Unit, wrote in the union's online publication: “The employees listed below have chosen not to pay union dues any more but still want everything that dues paying members get in the contract. These names and anyone else that chooses to stop paying their fair share will be posted in every article.”

Todd Lemire was one of the individuals whose names were published, and had been a member of 576-member Tool & Die Unit. UAW Local 600 has about 27,000 active and retired members spread across 40 bargaining units in Southeast Michigan. Members include steel workers, auto industry workers, truck drivers, independent parts suppliers, health care and technical office professionals.

Lemire, who joined the union in May of 1998, said he doesn’t hide the fact he chose to leave it, but said he does feel vulnerable now that every UAW member has been alerted to him exercising his option. He said the word “SCAB” was written on his uniform locker at work.

“I decided to opt out after realizing that the UAW truly wasn’t an organization that represented the interest of all their members,” Lemire said in an email. “It spent our dues in ways that didn’t represent my interests or political ideology, nor did I have a say in how my dues were spent. I saw instances of blatant nepotism, political discrimination, and indiscretion in spending year after year while listening to our unit president bad mouth the Republican party with no consideration that he could have a Republican in his midst. I simply had enough and decided I could no longer support an organization that didn’t equally support all of their members. I began to look at the UAW financial reports filed with the Labor Department and saw where our dues were going and it made me sick that I had no choice and was forced to give money to an organization and party that I do not support.”

Terry Bowman is another former union member who opted out. He left UAW Local 898 and is now the president of Union Conservatives, a nonprofit that keeps union members informed about relevant political and labor issues.

“It is definitely union bullying,” Bowman said of Lemire's situation. “It is to shame those that have pulled out of the union. But it causes a hostile environment and they hope that environment will stop anyone else from leaving the union. They want a hostile environment towards those people who exercise their additional rights, freedoms and protections that come from the state’s right-to-work law.”

F. Vincent Vernuccio, the director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said union membership or lack thereof is personal information.

“Anyone who shares this information without permission should be as liable as someone who shares a Social Security number,” Vernuccio said. “Guarding this information will help workers who exercise their right-to-work rights from union harassment and union members from being targeted by their employers.”

UAW Local 600 President Bernie Ricke didn’t return a message left on his office voice mail. The union didn’t return an email sent to its general account.

Most UAW members in the state can now opt out of their union. The website has been set up to walk them through the process.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.