UTU Officers in Solidarity against SMWIA

UTU officers in solidarity against SMWIA
SAN ANTONIO -- UTU general chairpersons, state legislative directors and local officers, representing some 45,000 UTU bus, rail, transit and Amtrak members, voted overwhelmingly at a state-of-the-union meeting here April 29 to support the legal fight against a forced merger with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA).

By a 122-5 vote, these UTU officers joined in solidarity with the UTU Board of Directors and UTU International President Mike Futhey, who pledged, "There will not be a merger."

The 45,000 members represented by these UTU officers total some 75 percent of the UTU's active membership.

The UTU contends that a tentative merger agreement between the UTU and the SMWIA, to create an SMWIA-dominated and controlled Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers, failed to provide members information they required to make an informed vote.

Moreover, the membership vote in 2007 was procedurally flawed, making the merger agreement, by its own terms, void and terminated.

The UTU officers' vote of solidarity opposing the SMWIA's strong-arm tactics came during a daylong business session that focused on the UTU's legislative and organizing agenda, the union's improved financial condition, and a status report on SMWIA's attempt to force implementation of a merger.

UTU General Chairperson Pate King (GO 680) moved from the floor that the officers vote on whether to support a UTU Board of Directors' resolution that urged exerting "every effort to defend [the UTU's] autonomy and to protect [UTU] members and their elected officers from the SMWIA's illegal and hostile efforts to obtain UTU funds and property and to interfere with the UTU's representational functions."

Said King to the 127 UTU officers present, "Stand up and be counted."

In recent weeks, SMWIA President Michael Sullivan intensified the SMWIA's hostile takeover campaign by issuing knowingly false communications to UTU-represented rail carriers and UTU officers at all levels, claiming the merger had occurred.

In other letters, Sullivan demanded that carriers send UTU members' dues to the SMWIA, and that UTU officers seek Sullivan's permission before engaging in official UTU business or spending UTU-member dues money on activities supporting the UTU membership.

Additionally, Sullivan illegally sought to interfere with and undermine the UTU's bargaining position in national and local negotiations by claiming that SMWIA was now the bargaining representative of UTU members.

Previously, the SMWIA was found guilty by an AFL-CIO neutral of attempting a raid of the UTU membership in violation of the AFL-CIO Constitution's Article 20.

Futhey and General Counsel Clint Miller summarized the history of events. The UTU Board of Directors' resolution may be viewed at www.utu.org by clicking on the "Nuts to SMWIA Takeover" link in the lower right-hand corner of the home page.

The core of UTU's opposition to a merger with the SMWIA is that the UTU membership was misled by former President Paul Thompson, who asserted repeatedly that the merger would preserve UTU craft autonomy, that the UTU Constitution would be inserted, "intact," within the SMWIA Constitution, and that there were no conflicts between the two constitutions.

In fact, 42 conflicts later were identified, with Thompson declaring that the real intent of the merger was to accomplish actions that could not be accomplished under provisions of the UTU Constitution -- such as ending the UTU's cherished craft autonomy.

Prior to the membership vote on the merger agreement, the UTU membership had not been provided a copy of the SMWIA Constitution, and no SMART constitution was written.

Three UTU rank-and-file members subsequently brought a lawsuit, alleging UTU members' rights had been violated as there was not an informed vote -- that UTU members were not provided an opportunity to identify conflicts before voting.

A federal district court agreed that the members' rights had been violated, issuing an injunction against the merger. Although the judge recommended Sullivan and Futhey write a SMART constitution and resubmit the merger for an informed vote by UTU members -- an action supported by Futhey -- Sullivan declined.

In fact, Sullivan told the court he would never approve of a UTU membership ratification vote of a SMART constitution.

Subsequently, the injunction against the merger was lifted by an appeals court even though two of the three appellate judges held that the merger had not been properly approved.

In a separate legal action, the SMWIA is asking another federal court to force implementation of the merger. The UTU position is that not only was the merger vote uninformed, but the process also was flawed -- that while the merger agreement required a membership vote on a SMART constitution, no such constitution existed or exists.

Additionally, the merger agreement required certification of voting results by the general secretaries-treasurer of the SMWIA and the UTU, but there was no such certification.

The merger agreement also provided that, "If either the SMWIA or the UTU fails to approve the Merger Documents [the Merger Agreement and the SMART Constitution] by the procedures stated ... they shall be deemed terminated and of no force and effect."

Said Futhey following the 122-5 vote count supporting the UTU fight against an SMWIA forced takeover, "Mr. Sullivan, in his threatening letters to UTU elected officers, has made reference to 'Futhey and friends.' I stand proudly with you, my friends."


April 30, 2010