Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Chrysler 13 Get Their Jobs Back

First there was the Chicago Seven. Now we have the Chrysler 13, the new martyrs in the workplace.

The Chicago 13 celebrated their daily lunch with a liquid meal of beer, accompanied in some cases with marijuana. The video showed boozing and toking. A camera crew from Detroit’s WJBT TV, MyFox Detroit, filmed the 13 workers at Detroit’s Jefferson North Plant two years ago, and then played the tape during the news broadcast. It went viral.

Chrysler fired the 13 workers, an eminently sensible and reasonable act. They posed a safety risk to Jeep Cherokee users and to their fellow workers.

The Big Three acquired a well-earned reputation in the 1960’s for poorly designed (Think Corvair, Pinto, and Vega) and built vehicles, opening the door to the Japanese imports. Detroit had a reputation for drugs and alcohol on the line. Higher quality and lower prices are a great marketing tool for competitors, the Japanese, Koreans,  and Germans.

Ford turned to “Quality is Job Number 1” to offset that image, but then dropped that theme.

Many Americans still won’t consider Detroit cars.

A common provision in collective bargaining agreements between management and labor is a grievance clause with mandatory arbitration by an independent arbitrator. The unions will have a duty to pursue the grievances filed by disciplined or terminated employees.

The Chrysler 13 filed their grievance. An arbitrator held for the workers a few days ago. They won reinstatement.

 The UAW has a policy against drugs and alcohol on the job - so much for the Union Label, although technically the workers were on their own time during the lunch break.

The arbitrator held there was “insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold the dismissals.”

Obviously the arbitrator was blind to the video (check it out on You Tube), albeit the beer bottles were in plain paper bags.

The unanswered question is did the 13 get reinstatement with back pay – a common remedy in reinstatement cases, or just reinstatement. Two years of backpay would be a Merry Christmas present to the workers.

The Detroit workers gave new meaning to Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” Superbowl ad. The featured car, the Chrysler 200 is made in Sterling Heights, Michigan but Chrysler extended the mantra to the Chrysler 300, made in Brampton, Canada.

The UAW in supporting the Chrysler 13 projects the image of being callous about the quality of the vehicles coming off the line. Their job security depends in the end not on a contract but the success of Chrysler, the employer, in selling its product.

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