UAW members: Your rights when working without a contract

A labor relations firm, who works with UAW, has do's and dont's for UAW members currently working with an expired contract
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 9:38 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MICHIGAN (WNEM) - The United Auto Workers (UAW) union went on strike at midnight Friday, Sept. 15, against all three Detroit automakers for the first time in the union’s 88-year history.

In its staggered strike strategy, workers walked out at three plants, one each from the Big Three. Picketers in Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio were welcomed by cheers from other union members.

UAW’s strikes started at General Motors’ Wentzville Missouri with 3,600 UAW members on staff. Ford’s Michigan truck plant in Wayne will have 3,300 strikers and Stellantis’ Toledo Assembly in Ohio has 5,800 members on strike. Overall, fewer than 13,000 of UAW’s 145,000 members walked off the job.

The remaining UAW members will stay on the job for now.

What are UAW members’ rights when working without a contract?

An attorney with Eisner, Dictor and Lamadrid, a labor relations firm in New York City, offered UAW members their rights while working without a contract, which is part of UAW’s strategy. For UAW members, most of the contract is still in effect and management cannot change the terms and conditions of work. You will not become an at-will employee.

Employees have just cause and you can’t be fired or disciplined for no reason, the firm said. UAW members still have a grievance procedure and management cannot reduce your wages, benefits, or past practices.

There are a few areas in which management and the union can make unilateral changes. Those areas include the no strike, no lockout clause. The clause expires, allowing UAW to call on locals to stand up and strike at a moment’s notice. Management can refuse to take grievances filed after the contract expiration to arbitration. The union can still file grievances, though, according to the firm.

UAW can file charges with the National Labor Relations Board and if it’s a bigger issue, the union can strike. The Management Rights Clause also expires. That allows the union to force management to engage in extensive bargaining over job assignments, schedules, workloads, and other day-to-day activities.

The firm suggests leaders keep a lookout on any attempt by management to make changes to mandatory subjects of bargaining. That kind of bargaining directly impacts wages, hours, and working conditions. It also affects subcontracting, disciplinary rules, layoffs, pensions, profit sharing, and more. Management is required by law to bargain with the union to an impasse as part of the complete agreement.

If you notice management making changes to any of those, notify your local leadership immediately.

For the most part, life and conditions should largely be unchanged under an expired contract, according to the firm. Union members will still have the right to organize. That includes setting up red T-shirt days, rallies, and other events.

Go to UAW’s website for more information on working under an expired contract.

Subscribe to the TV5 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every day.