The once-mighty United Auto Workers union has faced hard times of late. The most recent sign of the labor organization’s ebbing influence came last month when workers at the Fuyao Glass America plant in Dayton, Ohio, voted 886 to 441 to reject a heavily bankrolled unionizing effort. Before that, it was the August defeat of the UAW’s attempt to organize more than 3500 employees at a Nissan auto plant in Canton, Mississippi. Currently hanging over the union’s faltering recruiting efforts is an FBI investigation of financial ties between big-labor brass and Detroit auto companies, reported November 3 by the >Detroit News.
“The investigation focuses on whether training funds were misappropriated, and if labor leaders at GM and Ford received money or benefits through their tax-exempt nonprofits — an allegation that emerged this summer involving Fiat Chrysler and General Holiefield, a former UAW vice president who died in 2015,” per the paper’s account. Agents are said to be looking into “whether money and illegal benefits corrupted the bargaining process.”
Meanwhile, back in San Diego, UAW organizers have just arrived on the La Jolla campus of UCSD, thanks to a law signed in October by governor Jerry Brown that allows state university graduate student researchers to unionize. “We have learned that the United Auto Workers [union] is approaching academic researchers and asking them to sign union authorization cards and related materials,” says a November 22 notice posted online by UCSD executive vice chancellor Elizabeth Simmons. “Academic researchers include project scientists, professional researchers, cooperative extension specialists, specialists, scientific engineering associates, agronomists, and [Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory] researchers.”
The advisory adds, “UC supports the rights of employees to decide whether unionization is beneficial for them, and believes this choice should be well informed.” Thus, the school is “providing academic researchers with important facts about what unionization means and their rights during an organizing campaign.”