Glenn Spencer Glenn Spencer
Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


December 15, 2023


In the wake of the strike against the Detroit 3 auto companies, the United Auto Workers union (UAW) has initiated organizing efforts at non-union automakers. The union is reportedly soliciting signature cards from workers at various factories around the country. It’s also deploying one of its standard pressure tactics during a campaign. 

It’s no secret that unions donate large sums of money to elected officials, and invariably those donations overwhelmingly favor one party. The UAW, for example, contributed more than $2.1 million directly to candidates in the 2022 election cycle. Of that, $2.1 million went to Democrats and just $15,000 to Republicans. 

Perhaps coincidentally, Senate Democrats are reportedly circulating a letter addressed to non-union automakers asking them to sign neutrality agreements with the UAW. Getting sympathetic elected officials to put pressure on companies is right out of the union playbook. 

Neutrality is anything but as at its most basic level it means that companies waive their statutory and constitutional rights to speak to and engage with workers during an organizing campaign but asks nothing similar of unions. Unions love neutrality agreements because they leave the playing field uncontested. With no one to explain the realities of what a union means for workers and for the company at which they work, the only voice employees hear is the union’s. No one will explain to workers the potential downsides of unionizing, such as having to pay union dues, limitations on flexibility in the workplace, and the requirement that any change in working conditions (such as pay or benefit increases) must be negotiated through the union. 

Making matters worse, unions can promise workers almost anything during an organizing campaign, even if it is pure fantasy. For example, two of the UAW’s demands during the strike against the Detroit 3 were the return of defined benefit plans and a four-day workweek.  Neither of those was going to happen, but if a company signs a neutrality agreement, no one will tell workers that.   

What’s truly disconcerting, however, is that elected officials would consider pressuring employers to surrender their rights under the law (while asking nothing of unions) and in the process ensure that workers won’t be able to make an educated decision about a critical workplace issue. The National Labor Relations Act is supposed to protect workers’ ability to engage in union activity or to refrain from such activity. Workers will find it difficult to decide which option to choose if they only hear one side of the debate. It’s understandable the UAW wants an uninformed electorate. It’s less clear why elected officials agree.

About the authors

Glenn Spencer

Glenn Spencer

Spencer oversees the Chamber’s work on immigration, retirement security, traditional labor relations, human trafficking, wage hour and worker safety issues, EEOC matters, and state labor and employment law.

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