DETROIT — A federal judge in Michigan has thrown out a proposed class-action lawsuit against the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, pointing out several issues in a second amended complaint that accused the union of colluding with the automaker and neglecting the interests of the workers in collective-bargaining agreements.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain ruled on Aug. 23 that the workers failed to “adequately allege” that they exhausted contractual and internal union remedies established by the union to address injustices.
The lawsuit, filed in January by three Fiat Chrysler employees against the automaker and the UAW, sought hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over claims that the UAW colluded with FCA to shape union decisions and collective bargaining agreements.
According to the amended complaint, the workers argued they are excused from contractual duties to pursue internal union procedures because the union has “breached its duty of fair representation.”
The workers’ “contention that the internal union procedures will not provide the full relief they seek is disingenuous,” the order says.
In their second amended complaint, the workers argued that due to the “expansive nature of the collusion” the union is hostile to them.
“Plaintiffs do not explain in their pleading why they cannot receive a fair hearing in 2017 or 2018 when the conspirators are no longer in a position to thwart the internal union procedures,” the judge ruled. “Additionally, plaintiffs’ assertion that the union would be hostile towards them ignores the fact that the UAW Constitution permits them to seek redress before the Public Review Board…”
Lawyers representing the workers and FCA did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for the UAW referred to past comments made by the union that the contracts were not impacted.
In January, then-UAW President Dennis Williams said in a letter addressed to union members: “There is simply no truth to the claim that this misconduct compromised the negotiation of our collective bargaining agreement or had any impact on union funds.”
Even if the workers had properly claimed a breach of the collective bargaining agreement, the union argued the workers have failed to articulate the effects of the alleged breach.
The court ruled that the workers’ claim failed to specify harmful effects resulting from the collusion.
“Based on this authority, it appears there is some precedent for providing relief in the form of union dues, if such dues were used for purposes outside of the collective bargaining process or labor disputes,” the judge wrote. “However… [the] complaint stops short of making this allegation.”
The workers argue that discovery “will likely” reveal more information. However, a party cannot use the discovery process to acquire “the very facts needed to file a suit,” the court ruling said.
In the latest turn of the UAW-FCA scandal, ex-FCA labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli was sentenced last week to 66 months in federal prison for tax evasion for his part in the scheme to gain advantages in contract agreements.
“There are many layers of checks and balances in our contract negotiations and ratification, including membership voting,” the union said in a statement after the sentencing, “and we are confident the terms of our UAW contracts were not impacted by Iacobelli’ s fraudulent conduct at the NTC.”
The Detroit Bureau website reported on the suit’s dismissal on Thursday.