U.A.W. Sued Union Members who Supported Reagan

On September 7, 2015, in Public Policy, by Jacob Hitt

“It is my belief that my [union] dues/fees have been, are now, and will in the future be used for… political, ideological, social, economic, and/or philosophic purposes or activities of all kinds or natures. I specifically protest and object to the use of my dues/fees for all such noncollective bargaining activities (Barrett S. , 1985).” […]

UAW LOGO

“It is my belief that my [union] dues/fees have been, are now, and will in the future be used for… political, ideological, social, economic, and/or philosophic purposes or activities of all kinds or natures. I specifically protest and object to the use of my dues/fees for all such noncollective bargaining activities (Barrett S. , 1985).”

  • Stephen M. Barrett

 

Stephen M. Barrett was sued by the U.A.W. for exercising his first amendment rights and suggesting other U.A.W. members supported Ronald Reagan’s re-election for President. The Union claimed Barrett infringed on its copyrighted logo by using “U.A.W.” in block lettering on presidential campaign memorabilia that was handed out to his coworkers. Barrett, who believed the U.A.W. would represent him in negotiating collective bargaining agreements with his employer; administering collective bargaining agreements with his employer; and processing grievances at his request with his employer, received more than he bargained for (Barrett S. , 1985). Barrett wrote a letter to the union voicing his discontent. However, when a backroom decision was made to endorse democratic candidate Walter Mondale, Barrett realized the U.A.W. intended to represent him and his fellow union members in their political life, as well as in the work place.

In a satirical gesture, Barrett handed out U.A.W. for Ronald Reagan memorabilia free of charge, including buttons stating “U.A.W. Workers for REAGAN”. However, the U.A.W. responded with a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief using “intimidation, coercion, and threats against free speech” to stop him (Barrett, 1984). While individuals are protected by the U.S. Constitution against the State, Courts have turned a blind eye to unions abusing the fundamental Constitutional rights of its members.[i] Barrett unsuccessfully countersued U.A.W. claiming,

At all times relevant to this counterclaim, the actions of the plaintiff have been willful, malicious and in callous disregard of the rights of the defendant. Wherefore defendant demands judgement against the plaintiff in the sum of $100,000 as compensatory damages, the sum of $100,000 as punitive damages, plus his reasonable attorney fees and the costs of this action (International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Plaintiff v. Stephen Barrett, Defendant: Counterclaim and Jury Demand, 1985).

The Court of Common Pleas Butler County, Ohio ruled against the U.A.W. and its frivolous lawsuit against Barrett, but the damage was done. Barrett lived through an emotional rollercoaster, with valuable time and resources lost to the Union’s vacuum. Barrett’s Constitutional rights were ultimately protected, but he was never compensated for the uphill battle against union bosses’ pressures to silence his dissent.[ii]

 

End Notes

[i] Stephen Barrett countersued the U.A.W. for infringing upon his constitutional rights. However, the Court was forced to reject Stephen’s counterclaim because the Union is a private entity, though empowered with the authority of a legislature. The Court found, “There can be no doubt that the First Amendment, together with the Fourteenth Amendment only protect against official encroachment.” Carpenters v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825, 831 (1983). Barrett’s civil rights claim failed because he could not prove “the State was somehow involved in or affected by the conspiracy.” Id. (International Union United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (U.A.W.) Plaintiffs, -vs- Stephen M. Barrett, Defendant., 1985)

[ii]Barrett’s fifth affirmative defense to the Union’s complaint alleged the U.A.W.’s action was nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to censor him and interfere with his freedom of speech and his right and privilege to associate freely with persons having views similar to himself, and the complaint was a bad faith pleading of such character as to deny Barrett’s right to invoke equitable powers of the court. (International Union United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (U.A.W.) Plaintiffs, -vs- Stephen M. Barrett, Defendant., 1985).

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