Judge Rules UAW Strike "Economic"

By Rachel Martin

June 27, 2012 Updated Jun 28, 2012 at 9:56 AM EDT

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – An Administrative Law Judge declared the unfair labor strike by the UAW against Coupled Products, LLC an economic strike.

Members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2049 have been on strike for over a year, but a recent judge's ruling could put a stop to that.

On June 18, Union members celebrated one year of protest for unfair labor practices at Coupled Products, LLC, an auto-part manufacturing plant in Columbia City. Both the UAW and Coupled Products have lawyers working on the case. On June 20, an Administrative Law Judge ruled against Union members declaring an economic strike, instead.

Union members began the strike on June 18, 2011, when they were asked to take a 33 percent pay cut, in addition to shorter vacation time.

Tina Johnson, U.S. Operations Manager for Coupled Products, says although the company is profitable overall, the Columbia City plant was losing money and cuts were necessary to keep the plant in the U.S. Although the Indiana plant was falling behind financially, it wasn’t in enough trouble to lay-off employees.

Johnson says the judge’s ruling was right. “They’re saying they felt it was an unfair labor practice because they felt they had the right to audit our books,” said Johnson. “We say it’s an economic strike because the only reason they weren’t accepting this is because they didn’t want to take a pay cut.”

Johnson says she considers this a “win” for the company and can continue to carry on with business. “The people that we hired here as full-time permanent replacement workers, we are able to keep those workers in this facility and they can continue to work. The strikers can continue to strike indefinitely if they feel that's in their best interest,” she said.

Attorney Jeff Macey represents UAW Local 2049. He says the Union is disappointed with the ruling. “We respectfully disagree with the Administrative Law Judge's findings that no unfair labor practice occurred. We have an option to appeal, so we're reviewing the decision and reviewing the case law and looking at our options,” said Macey.

No one is sure if Union members will ever return to work, both Johnson and Macey say that is something for the judge to decide. However, Johnson says she’s not sure if she would take any of the picketers back.

“Right now I wouldn’t replace one of my full-time replacements with a picketer who chose to go out on strike when they could’ve been here working anyways,” Johnson says.

“It’s not really over. This is just a set-back on the way,” said Macey.

Macey and the Union will have 28 days to appeal the ruling.

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