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Sparks Fly Within UAW Over False Signature on Letter

July 31, 1987|GREGORY CROUCH | Times Staff Writer

Regional officials of the United Auto Workers said they may seek disciplinary action against a local union chairman at the General Motors plant in Van Nuys who sent a letter giving notice that the local contract covering 3,500 workers would be canceled in 60 days.

UAW assistant regional director Henry Gonzalez said that the shop chairman had "forged" the signature of a UAW regional official and then sent the notice to GM executives without authorization.

Peter Z. Beltran acknowledged Thursday that he signed the name of UAW Regional Director Bruce Lee, but added that local union officials routinely sign for regional directors and that he had done so during the past nine years without any repercussions. "I don't see what the problem is."

Gonzalez said Beltran is bluffing and that shop chairmen have never been allowed to sign for higher-ups. "It's hogwash. He got his finger caught in the cookie jar and now he's trying to wiggle out."

Leonard Page, associate general counsel for the UAW in Detroit, backed up Gonzalez. "I've never heard of the practice Mr. Beltran refers to. It's not done within the UAW," he said.

When Lee learned about the termination notice, he sent a letter to GM officials, dated July 15. Lee wrote in part, "It has been brought to my attention that . . . Beltran . . . falsified my signature on a '60-day notice to employer' dated July 6, 1987. This letter will serve as official notice that my signature was signed without my knowledge or authorization."

Gonzalez said Beltran tried to cancel the local contract knowing that Lee would thwart those efforts. "We can only assume the reason he didn't ask the director was because the director wouldn't authorize it," said Gonzalez.

Beltran and Lee have clashed for the past year over a new Japanese labor-relations concept that GM introduced at the Van Nuys plant in May. Beltran wants to see the method, called Team Concept, dismantled. Lee is one of the union officials who helped negotiate the Team Concept agreement after GM threatened to shut down the Van Nuys facility.

In that agreement, employees work on sections of a car in teams rather than performing single, repetitive tasks alone.

Beltran believes that the local agreement runs out with the national UAW contract in September. But Lee and other union officials say the new Team Concept agreement runs through 1990.

Lee and Gonzalez say they are so furious they're considering filing disciplinary charges against Beltran.

"There are certain things that can be done through the international constitution (of the UAW)," Gonzalez said. "We're looking at those now."

In his July 15 letter, Lee wrote, "Falsifying a person's signature without authorization or approval is a serious matter which cannot be tolerated or condoned."

Frank Joyce, a UAW spokesman in Detroit, said that disciplinary action could "result in expulsion from the union."

Beltran said he isn't worried because "I haven't done anything wrong."

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