An appeals court ruled in favor workers suing the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. in a case tied to the ongoing investigation of misuse of training funds by FCA and UAW officials.
The suit was brought by a group of former temporary part time (TPT) workers at the Jeep manufacturing complex in Toledo, Ohio, who have asserted that they were denied seniority and other rights in a agreement between FCA’s management and the UAW’s FCA Department, which administers the union’s end of its labor contract with the automaker.
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did not grant the workers petition for a promotion and back pay; however, it did open the door for an appeal to the union’s internal review.
The union has insisted for months the money from the joint funds given to UAW representatives never influenced contract negotiations with FCA in 2011 and 2015. However, union dissidents believe it could have influenced they ways specific contract provisions are administered on a day-to-day basis.
“Because internal union appeals procedures may provide the employees with the relief they seek, the employees must exhaust the union’s internal remedies before suing it. We thus remand the case to the district court with instructions to hold it in abeyance while the employees pursue their union appeals,” the court ruled
(UAW enjoys membership increase in 2017. Click Here for the story.)
The case highlights the suspicions that run deep among the FCA’s blue-collar workers that the union’s bargaining posture and contract administration were tainted when General Holiefield and his aides were in charge of the UAW’s FCA Department.
Holiefield died in 2015 only months after he retired, but three former staff assistants from the UAW and his widow, Monica Morgan, have been indicted on federal criminal charges. Morgan and Virdell King, a former deputy director, pleaded guilty to charges in the U.S. District Court in Detroit in July 2017.
Alphonse Iacobelli, former FCA vice president of labor relations, said in his guilty plea on charges of siphoning $4.5 million in joint training funds that part of the reason for scheme was to buy influence with UAW officials during negotiations and presumably in the more arcane aspects of contract administration.
The facts in the case, Slight vs UAW Local 12, indicate that union staffers from the FCA department tasked with handling grievances failed to follow procedures and failed to follow through in handling of the complaints by union members.
(Click Here for details about the Feds securing a new indictment in FCA-UAW scandal.)
The temporary part time workers saw their pay slashed from Tier One to the substantially lower Tier Two level when they were converted to full-time status after a long delay in 2013 when the FCA Department was still being run by Holiefield, who was taking money from the joint funds. Iacobelli also siphoned off enough money from the joint fund to purchase a used Ferrari and spent more than $400,000 on upgrades to his suburban Detroit home.
The company and union argued workers failed to exhaust the internal grievance process. At the same time, they also argued that workers had no right to appeal the dismissal of their grievance within the time frame spelled out by the contract and UAW constitution. The Sixth Circuit dismissed this position and ordered the case back to U.S. District Court in Toledo for further adjudication.
When the grievance was withdrawn in January 2014, the workers also lost all their accrued seniority amounting to six years per worker, according to a summary of the case.
In a related case, former workers at the Toledo Jeep paint shop have filed a lawsuit against the UAW and FCA about their firing in 2012. The workers claimed they were let go as part of a sweetheart deal to bring in lower paid replacements, in fact, the same former Jeep TPT workers involved in the Slight lawsuit.
(For our initial report on the original indictments, Click Here.)
The employees involved had been considered temporary employees but expected promotion to the first and more lucrative step or tier under the change worked out by the company and the union. Instead they were relegated to the second tier.