February 15th, 2014

A defeat for organized labor in the South

Workers of the South, unite:

The workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga voted 712-626 to stay out of the union after a lobbying fight in which Republican politicians warned unionization could lead Volkswagen and automobile companies to leave the state.

Volkswagen actually offered some support for the UAW in its effort, which deepened the blow to UAW.

Union officials praised Volkswagen but blamed politicians who had warned workers that by joining they union, they could hurt their own economic interests.

…UAW officials vowed they would not give up in their effort to organize workers in the South, a region that historically has been much more difficult to unionize.

Give up? Never. They are patient.

Here’s an interesting statement:

“While we’re outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union, we’re proud that these workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from outside,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams. “We hope this will start a larger discussion about workers’ right to organize.”

The article goes on to add that the UAW president said the union is contemplating legal action about this “interference.” So, who “interfered,” and exactly how? Is telling workers how unions might function in a way that’s counter to their interests “interfering” with the union’s own campaign to woo them?

Further research on this question came up with this:

UAW President Bob King sharply criticized Tennessee politicians who he said scared workers away from voting in favor of union representation.

How did these scare tactics occur? This is the best I’ve been able to do so far in terms of locating the specifics:

Tennessee Republican leaders suggested that the union might limit chances for a plant expansion and make the GOP-controlled Legislature less willing to help the German auto maker expand…

More here about what those Republican leaders said. Apparently the governor said something about the likelihood that if the plant didn’t unionize, an SUV-line might be brought in. I can’t seem to find any actual quotes, though, either from the governor or those other Republicans, so it’s hard to evaluate what’s true. The quote from Senator Corker, however, appears to be this:

Corker, a Tennessee Republican who helped negotiate the incentives package to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga, said he has talked to VW leaders numerous times and “there’s not a push by the executive leadership or the board toward the UAW.”

“I know for a fact that at the highest levels of VW, they’re aware that if the UAW became involved in the plant, it would be a negative for the future economic growth of our state,” he said.

So Senator Corker’s telling people about the economic effects on the state of Tennessee’s reputation as a place that doesn’t encourage unions is scare tactics, I guess. At least, according to the unions.

Some of the union’s angst – and another significant part of the back story – seems to be the fact that “a majority of workers at the Chattanooga plant [had] signed cards supporting being represented by the union in a European-style works council.” Apparently that led union leaders to believe they had this in the bag. Funny thing, though, a secret ballot is different than signing a card – remember card check, one of Obama’s original goals?

27 Responses to “A defeat for organized labor in the South”

  1. Roman Says:

    “Interferance” to a leftist is trying to explain how actions may have results that may not be intended. Look at the lifestyle of major union bigwigs: large houses, biz-jets, and the trappings of wealth, all paid for by the dues of “hard working Americans”.

  2. KLSmith Says:

    Very nice! However, being the Gloomy Gus / Debbie Downer that I am, I would like to have seen a bigger margin of victory.
    Still, this is sweet. And you’re right, they won’t give up. If only our side had a fraction of the left’s fight in them.

  3. Don Carlos Says:

    The Chattanooga TimesFreePress has two editorials about the vote result.

    The first ends with “Fellows (meaning local and state Repub. officials), you’ve done Boss Hog proud.”

    The second ends with “So, Republican politicians, that’s on you. Let’s hope we can count on you to use the same influence to help these things happen for Chattanooga as you did to help turn back the UAW.”

    I guess that’s the paper’s attempt at fair and balanced.

    Painfully and fully implicit in both pieces is that the VW workers are pinheads led by their noses. But the pinhead is the first editorialist: “Boss Hog” is a punk band; “Boss Hogg” was the greedy, unethical commissioner of Hazzard County in the long-ago 1980s TV series, The Dukes of Hazzard.

  4. Don Carlos Says:

    And a storm of antiunion delight is found in the ~800 comments on the WSJ story.

  5. Patrick Albanese Says:

    I love that VW supposedly showed support for unionization.

    Really? They could obey every union edict laid out any time they wanted to.

    It seems they were playing to the union out of fear. Otherwise, there’d be almost no need to unionize. Just meet every demand.

    But it seems they are not.
    Why, if they supported the move?

    “Hey! We support you guys. But we won’t meet your demands, which we want you to think we are in favor of, until you unionize.”

    Right. We want to do it, but we won’t until you force us. Go team VW.

  6. Matt_SE Says:

    I’m not sure why anyone think this is surprising (or important).
    VW may be heavily unionized, and IG Metall may have wanted the plant unionized (though probably under their leadership if they could). But why do you think VW opened the plant in a right-to-work state?
    You think that was an accident?

    Europe is generally socialist. Germany is no exception. They have been incurring the costs of paid worker vacations and rising benefit packages for decades. Socialist true-believers can agitate for whatever they want, but the VW owners are looking at the bottom line.

    And the critics are correct. If the plant were unionized, VW would’ve shifted production elsewhere.

    As far as the UAW is concerned, what we’re seeing here is the flailing of a drowning man. Sad, really.
    If given a choice, workers abandon the UAW in droves.

    Obama knows the UAW’s days are numbered, which is why he’s shifted to a new “client,” the greens. Also, this explains his OCD-like focus on “teachers, police and firefighters.” No society can get rid of these services (unlike auto manufacturing), so Obama’s trying to strengthen their influence and loyalty to Democrats as much as possible.

    Which is a great argument for looking into privatizing those occupations.

  7. Don Carlos Says:

    Note the tone of UAW in this story:

    ‘Shortly after the vote was announced, Gary Casteel, the UAW’s regional director, vowed that the union would continue to work to unionize the plant. “We’re not quitting on this,” he said.

    “It’s unfortunate that there were outside influences,” he added, referring to efforts made by Corker and the Center for Worker Freedom, a group led by conservative crusader Grover Norquist, which put up 13 anti-union billboards in the area.

    “I urge VW employees to go back to building cars,” Casteel said. “There are some issues that still need to be sorted out about this election.”

    He said the union looked forward to working with Chattanooga to develop growth and job development.

    “Our commitment to Tennessee is a long-term investment,” Casteel said. “We are proud of our managers and employees.”

    What he said? Like he owns the plant, urging workers to return to work; a longterm commitment to spend union dues; he’s proud of “our”(UAW??) managers and employees. And UAW is going to work with Chattanooga.

    Casteel needs a job in the White House.

  8. Ymarsakar Says:

    He is the outside influence.

  9. studio Photography Says:

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  10. Matt_SE Says:

    @studio Photography

    Your are nice posting! Agree much with many points!
    What some people (you), thinking on using Spambots in internet?
    Maybe real person? Maybe alien person, speaking English short-time?
    Maybe person hitting head with hammer to much?

  11. neo-neocon Says:


    Well, now I’ve got to leave “studio Photography”‘s spam comment up there.

  12. Matt_SE Says:

    Plus, my mockery may have just cost you a “logo new reader.”
    Sorry about that…I know you never had one as a child.

  13. Beverly Says:

    Hey, I’m proud of the Big ‘Noog. Went to high school there, and my brother and dad still live there (paleoconservatives both, tho Dad did admire FDR as a boy).

    Southerners have plenty of horse sense about these things. They know that the Yankee union bosses have their own agenda, and NO ONE wants to end up like pore ole DETROIT. Any questions?

    Also, in Chattanooga, $20 an hour is a Very Nice Wage. Shoot, you can rent a house on your own lot for $1500/month. Check out the real estate listings.

    Also, as someone at ace’s place sensibly remarked, it isn’t 1914 any more, for cryin’ out loud. There are already tons of regulations/worker safety measures, no one is speeding the line up to a killing pace, and they all have benefits and days off already. In the old days, the unions did have a purpose, but they’ve outlived it.

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    In order to keep alive, unions much like palis, must create the threat they will promise to protect you from.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    Btw, is Patrick Albanese a Democrat union supporter, agent provocateur, or some such?

  16. Don Carlos Says:

    In a grossly pro-union piece in WaPo 2/14, Steven Pearlstein writes, “Under the skillful leadership of Bob King, a chastened UAW has agreed to deep cuts in wages and benefits that now give UAW plants roughly the same labor costs as non-union foreign transplants. And in the neutrality agreement signed with VW, the UAW has given up its right to bargain over work rules and will hand those decision over to a plant-level “works council” composed of managers and front-line employees, both union and non-union. King’s successors have earned the right to demonstrate that theirs is not your father’s UAW.”

    So what is the UAW’s proposed remnant role in Chattanooga? A machine that eats dues and does nothing? In the UAW one is not going to earn more than non-union. The UAW as tapeworm, doing nothing for its host.

  17. q Says:

    Anonymous voting!? Who ever heard of such a thing. No wonder the UAW lost, the vote was rigged!!! How each person voted should be public knowledge… right?

    I hope you know I’m kidding. however, once the union gets in place anonymous voting is eliminated so the “scabs” can be identified, threatened and beaten.

  18. Snackeater Says:

    Ah, the secret ballot–the nemesis of union thugs everywhere. I wonder if they had to show picture ID to vote…

  19. JKB Says:

    Sen. Corker said that about the SUV line which the VW Chattanooga CEO promptly denied. Smart since I think saying such would run afoul of the byzantine labor laws.

    But is Corker really an outsider. I don’t like the guy, but he, as mayor of Chattanooga, was in on the ground floor so to speak of converting the long idled government munitions site into industrial use and recruiting VW to locate there.

    But some johnny-come-lately Michigan UAW thugs who want to extract some tribute from all that work, they are insiders? Really?

    I think the problem is that there is/was a strong car culture in the South. In high school in the ’70s, fixing up your car was the most common past time. Everyone pretty much knew of and discussed the crappy American-made cars of the time. Fix Or Repair Daily was what FORD stood for. And while it wasn’t all UAW, they certainly did their part. Now in Chattanooga, pretty much all the unionized industry has died, why would anyone be eager for a resurgence of that infection.

  20. Stark Says:

    This is a victory for everyone except the union. It is surprising that the vote was as close as it was. Somehow the union organizer’s usual vote buying routine must have been thwarted.

  21. Don Carlos Says:

    Feb. 16 “VW works council says will pursue labor representation at U.S. plant
    By Jan Schwartz and Andreas Cremer HAMBURG/BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen’s works council said it would press on with efforts to set up labor representation at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, undeterred by a workers’ vote against any such step involving the United Auto Workers union (UAW). Employees at the plant, in a region traditionally hostile to organized labor, on Friday opted to reject representation by the union, whose membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979 and now stands at just under 400,000. “The outcome of the vote, however, does not change our goal of setting up a works council in Chattanooga,” Gunnar Kilian, secretary general of VW’s works council, said in a statement on Sunday, adding that workers continued to back the idea of labor representation at the plant.”

    Make that “some” workers, Gunnar.

  22. blert Says:

    The UAW shattered the American auto industry.

    What’s to figure?

    GM and Ford are mere shadows of their former selves.

    Dodge is now scarcely more than a few assembly plants.

    The UAW is shrinking — just like the USW and the UMW — into oblivion.

    As for work rules: they’re almost never spelt out to the membership — or the general public.

    They are typically insane.

    ONE example out of many:

    The Teamsters contract controls Hollywood location shooting. If the scene was as close as the house next door, the actor must drive to the studio so that a Teamster driver can drive them to the shoot.

    While at the shoot, this driver — and his buddies — play cards and shoot the breeze. They’re ‘working’ — of course.

    At the end of the shoot, these Teamsters drive the actors back to the studio.

    Then the talent drives back home.

    Unlike construction employees, it’s out of the question that they should simply drive directly to the shoot.

    If the shoot goes over-long… you’re looking at overtime or split crews — each getting a full days pay for driving one actor — once.

    These rules really reflect the protection racket that the Teamsters have on Hollywood.

    They are but one of the crafts that has Hollywood by the short hairs.

    This abuse is a total flip-flop from the days of Chaplin — when it was the moguls that abused everybody. At that time, the absurdities all went the other way.

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    Hollywood is its own racket. The teamsters are just sipping some of that milk candy.

  24. holmes Says:

    Interesting legal point- it doesn’t matter how many of the total workers vote, only that 50% (+1) vote one way or the other. I don’t know how large this plant was, but it does seem like pretty high turnout. Sometimes only 10-25% show up to vote at all, preferring to not get on anyone’s bad list one way or the other.

  25. DaveindeSwamp Says:

    perhaps off topic, but , NY SAFE act claims another :


    In a related article, the apparently the Union is UMW. Not particularly welcome in Alabama .

  26. Doom Says:

    Any auto company that unionizes automatically loses my business. Actually, any company I find that is union I will transition once I know. Unions cut quality and raise costs (mine). They are not good for me, as a consumer. Let limousine liberals carry their product lines, I won’t.

  27. Ymarsakar Says:

    Unions are just another form of Aztec human sacrifice. It feels good to be in a cult that enforces the cult’s rules.

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