Feds Charge Alabama Auto Factory With Threatening Workers Over Union Organizing

By Shani Saxon-Parrish Jan 12, 2016

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Lear Corporation, a major supplier to Hyundai, used scare tactics to stop workers at a Selma foam seating factory from unionizing and demanding higher pay and basic health and safety protections. 

According to a statement from the Selma Workers Organizing Committee, NLRB is charging the $17.7 billion Lear Corp. with interrogating workers, telling them they’d be fired and blacklisted, and threatening to close the plant in retaliation for workers trying to form a union with the help of United Auto Workers.

Based on the charges, NLRB is demanding that Lear assure Selma seating workers in a meeting that they do, in fact, have the right to organize a union.

“We’ve always known that we have the right to speak out for higher pay and safe jobs, and now with the federal government moving to stop Lear’s illegal tactics, we feel more confident than ever that we will win the good jobs that auto workers and the Selma community deserve,” Letasha Irby, a Lear production worker since 2006, said in the statement. “Lear doesn’t scare us. What’s really scary is not being able to support my two children on Lear’s low wages, and that’s why we’re standing up for change.”

This isn’t the first time Lear Corp. has faced accusations of mistreating employees. In 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the Alabama seating plant for multiple serious violations of federal health and safety laws. And in 2015, a federal judge in Alabama granted the U.S. Department of Labor’s request for a restraining order against Lear for attempting to silence whistleblowers.

In a November 2014 report [PDF], the National Employment Law Project found that one in four manufacturing jobs in the U.S. now pays less than $11.91 an hour, and wages in the auto industry—the largest segment of America’s manufacturing base—have fallen far faster than the rate for all other jobs over the past decade.