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Dis-Union 'They have turned their backs on us'

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 10, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 10 at 7:37 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- A dispute between two Louisville labor unions has spilled into federal court, the controversy exposing bitterness and distrust between leaders of Teamsters 89 and UAW Local 862.

"They have turned their backs on us," said Teamsters 89 President Fred Zuckerman,  "They've lied to us.  They've taken our members' jobs and we're not going to put up with that."

The National Labor Relations Board has filed for an injunction that would force a Ford contractor to rehire 166 Teamsters workers that were displaced when a different contractor was awarded car hauling operations at Louisville Assembly Plant (LAP).

At issue is a labor agreement reached between the new contractor, Voith Industrial Services, and United Auto Workers Local 862.  The UAW workers earn about $11 per hour compared to $20 per hour wages earned by the Teamster workers during their employment with Jack Cooper Transport, according to Zuckerman, the Teamsters 89 President.

“We believe this is an unlawful collective bargaining relationship," said Gary Muffley, Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB concluded that Voith entered into a relationship with the UAW in an effort to prevent Teamsters members from being hired into the new jobs.

Zuckerman alleged that UAW Local 862 made applications available for the Voith jobs before Ford awarded the contract.

"We think that they colluded together prior to the award of the bid," Zuckerman said in an interview at the Teamsters 89 offices on Taylor Boulevard.  "We think it was a deal set up just to lower the wages and conditions of the people out there, and to oust the Teamsters."

UAW Local 862 leaders declined interview requests on Friday, referring questions to UAW offices in Detroit that did not respond to WHAS11's request.

An e-mail written by UAW President Bob King, however, attempted to quell the discord.  Teamsters 89 provided the e-mail exchange between King and Louisville labor leader Larry Hujo, a Staff Representative at Indiana Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters.

"The situation is far more complicated than has been presented to you," King wrote to Hujo. "The UAW has given very strong support to the Teamsters in their struggle to maintain & grow car haul jobs & in numerous contract struggles with numerous victories for the Teamsters."

"Contrary to what you may have been told we are giving strong support to the Teamsters to both protect their current members and to grow Teamster jobs with Ford in Louisville.

"It would be counterproductive to go into the details with you at this point and could hurt our efforts to find a good solution.  I am hopeful that the UAW & Teamsters & Ford will work to a good solution for all," King said in the e-mail.

Ford Motor Company also withheld direct comment.

"Ford is not a party to the legal proceeding and has not been charged with any wrongdoing. As such, it is not appropriate for us to comment on the case," said Todd Nissen, a Ford spokesman.

A review of internal Ford documents obtained by WHAS11 News shows that Ford estimates the Voith contract saves the automaker about $9.8 million per year compared to Jack Cooper Transport.
  
Yet, the documents indicate that Ford also estimates the net result of new contract and work assignments for Louisville Assembly Plant is both more Teamsters workers and more UAW workers.

With the rebirth of LAP and production of Escape SUV's, Ford moved much of its vehicle loading operation to a separate site in Shelbyville, where Jack Cooper Transport still has the contract and still employs Teamsters workers.

The Teamsters President is focusing on the Teamster jobs in Louisville now being performed by UAW workers.

"We are going to win this fight with them or without them," Zuckerman said.  "What they can do today is to disclaim an interest in this group and let nature take its course."

The NLRB motion is scheduled to be heard by an administrative law judge on August 21.

"We will make an effort to settle the case with parties," said the NLRB's Muffley.  "We always prefer settlement."

Teamster Brenda Helm, one of about ten former Jack Cooper employees rehired by Voith, said she earned more than $20 per hour under the previous contract and earns less than $14 per hour.

"How do you do something to someone who has been so loyal to you?" Helm asked, adding that inexperienced workers with the new contractor have created "chaos" in the car hauling operation.

Helm said UAW members have cursed at Teamsters, upset with the labor divide.

Louisville's union brotherhood appears fractured weeks before its annual Labor Day picnic at the Louisville Zoo.

"It's... not going to be good," Zuckerman said.

"The UAW is going to have to reach out to us," Zuckerman said.  "The way I view it now, if they're going to continue this type of union busting and collusion with the companies just to achieve lower wages and no benefits and those kind of things, I can't help them."

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