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Opinion: UAW brings its bad faith bargaining to Missouri

As the United Auto Workers (UAW) union attempts to extend its reach into Missouri with its effort to unionize the Toyota plant in Troy, workplace freedoms are once again under threat in our state. Now is the time to make sure their usual intimidation tactics don’t go unseen.

In its nationwide push to unionize auto manufacturing plants in recent months, UAW has already pushed around 30 percent of autoworkers at the Troy plant to sign union cards, meaning they could push for a union vote or pressure the plant to accept a union without a secret ballot vote if they get to over 50 percent to sign – a process known as “card check.”

While joining unions or other associations may help workers champion workplace policies, the tactics now being employed by the UAW, particularly their penchant for “card checks” and forcing neutrality agreements, erode workers’ fundamental freedoms in the workplace.

Card check processes, where union organizers collect signed authorization cards from employees, ostensibly simplify unionization but create an environment ripe for coercion. This method deprives workers of their right to make a free and informed decision regarding union representation. Employees might sign these cards under pressure, fearing repercussions for refusal, undermining the principle of voluntary association and the integrity of their decision.

The substitution of card checks for secret ballots erodes the confidentiality essential to these decisions. Secret ballots ensure that employees can express their preferences without fear of retaliation, fostering an atmosphere of trust and openness. In contrast, card check methods expose workers to undue influence, compromising their ability to exercise their rights freely.

Equally concerning are the neutrality agreements advocated by the UAW, which limit employers’ ability to communicate with their employees about unionization. These agreements not only infringe upon employers’ free speech rights but also skew the information landscape, preventing a balanced discourse on the implications of unionization. Such restrictions hinder open dialogue and informed decision-making, pillars of a fair and democratic process.

True workplace freedom encompasses freedom of speech and association for both employees and employers. Neutrality agreements, by stifling employer communication, create an imbalance that undermines employees’ ability to make informed choices and freely express themselves. Employers should be able to present their perspective, offering employees a comprehensive view of the potential consequences of unionization.

A new labor standard created from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)’s decision on the Cemex Construction Materials Pacific LLC case last year exacerbates these issues by lowering the bar for unions to demand representation, regardless of employees’ preferences.

This decision, along with increased pressure from union leaders, represents a significant shift towards restricting employer communication and unilaterally implementing unionization tactics that may not reflect the true desires of workers.

If they actually cared about workers’ opinions, the UAW wouldn’t resort to shady tactics for getting enough votes to unionize. It has shown time and time again that it cares more about power than its own members. Just last year, it left thousands of workers from the “Big Three” automakers (Ford, General Motors and Stellantis) without pay or unemployed after a series of strikes last year.

Missouri’s autoworkers, and all stakeholders in this debate, must carefully consider the broader implications of the UAW’s organizing efforts. The choice to unionize should be made in an environment that values transparency, respects individual rights, and ensures the representation of all perspectives.

If Toyota’s plant in Troy unionizes, it should serve as a critical reminder of the importance of maintaining a balanced and respectful dialogue between employers and employees. By fighting against unions’ coercive practices, workers can ensure that the future of labor relations in Missouri and beyond remains grounded in the principles of freedom and democracy that have long been the hallmark of our nation.