Judge Orders UAW Local to Produce Membership Records
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Judge Orders UAW Local to Produce Membership Records in "Freightliner Five" Case
On Friday William A. Beaty, Jr., chief judge of the federal court in Winston-Salem North Carolina, ordered UAW Local 3520 to produce records substantiating its claim that five former members failed to pay dues last year.
The judge also ordered the local to produce its reasons for expelling the five in February. The reasons were given to the International UAW in Detroit, but not the plaintiffs, in answer to an appeal they filed in March.
The five, who have sued the local union, are known to supporters as the "Freightliner Five," because their former employer Freightliner fired them last year for their role as bargaining committee members in a local-wide wildcat strike after the collective bargaining contract expired in March. The profitable company's plant is in Cleveland, North Carolina, and makes heavy trucks.
Freightliner claims the strike occurred after the contract was extended day-to-day, which the union disputes. An arbitration hearing is set for next month.
The plaintiffs dispute that any union dues are owing, and paid them under protest before the expulsions.
A second reason given by the local in February was that plaintiffs had not filed a required union statement in October. Plaintiffs counter that others who did not file the statement were not expelled, and a local financial officer told them they didn't have to file it.
In 2005 a union board ruled the filing requirement was so complicated it could not be understood.
According to the suit, President George Drexel of Local 3520 has said he expelled them under an interpretation of the UAW constitution from the office of Ron Gettelfinger, International UAW president.
Last fall a union trial committee acquitted the Freightliner Five of unbecoming conduct in the strike, which Drexel broke by a phone call to members saying the international UAW had not authorized it.
Plaintiffs asked Judge Beaty for a hearing before the next membership meeting on May 17, in hopes they would be allowed to attend. The last time they tried, one of them, Allen Bradley, was arrested. He faces a criminal trial and possible jail time for trespassing.
Judge Beaty delayed a hearing date to May 22, on the belief that the local union had not yet been served with the lawsuit, filed last Wednesday.
But Todd Scott, an elected executive officer of the local, had accepted the suit outside the union hall Friday at mid-morning. He went to the door to leave it off for President Drexel. It was locked. Seeing union member Keith Fink inside, he knocked several times and called through the door that he had papers to deliver. Fink, who testified against plaintiffs at the union trial and is not elected, would not open up.
Scott is expected to file his declaration with the court on Monday.
The case is Whiteside et al v UAW Local 3520. The case number is 1:08-cv-00327-JAB.
The "Freightliner Five" website is www.justice4five.com.
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