Tennessee VW workers REJECT unionization bid by UAW

posted at 8:31 am on February 15, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

People around Chattanooga, Tennessee have been on pins and needles this past week, awaiting the results of a vote by workers at the Volkswagen manufacturing plant in their area deciding whether or not they would invite United Auto Workers into their town to organize workers. The wait is over, and the workers have told the giant auto workers ‘ union to pack sand.

Workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee have voted against union representation in a devastating defeat for the United Auto Workers union’s effort to make inroads in the South.

The 712-626 vote released late Friday was surprising for many labor experts and union supporters who expected a UAW win because Volkswagen tacitly endorsed the union and even allowed organizers into the Chattanooga factory to make sales pitches.

“This is like an alternate universe where everything is turned upside down,” Cliff Hammond, a labor lawyer at in Detroit, told The Wall Street Journal, noting that companies usually fight union drives.

That’s actually a fairly disingenuous reading of VW’s position. As it happens, I was right in Chattanooga for the past couple of weeks working on an unrelated project and was able to speak with a number of people on both sides of the issue, as well as follow all of the local coverage. VW never seemed to be in favor of the UAW. They simply wanted to provide the employees with some form of works council, similar to what they normally have in Europe, allowing them effective lines of communication with the management. Whether that was a locally organized structure or through the auspices of a union didn’t seem to much matter.

But the workers themselves and all of their neighbors were not short on opinions. One of the big questions seemed to be exactly what it would cost them to invite the UAW into their plant and what they would get in return. As this recent editorial in the local paper reflected, many of the workers had a clue as to where their dues money would be going.

First and foremost, the UAW enters the room. With it, VW employees who choose to join will dole out two and a half hours of pay per month for what the union says is a — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — strike fund. But the UAW would never strike the nice plant that allowed it a foothold in the South, right?

Where, in fact, does the UAW in general, among other places, put its money? In the 2013-14 campaign cycle so far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, it has given $71,901 to Democrat candidates and zero, zip, nada to Republican candidates.

In the 2012 cycle, it gave $1,427,731 to Democrat candidates and $45,053 in efforts against Republican candidates. Republican candidates, meanwhile, got nothing.

VW workers, that would be your money.

Contrary to national popular opinion, the locals are still not big fans of Democrats – or politicians in general, from what I saw – and flushing part of their paychecks into a political machine rather than ensuring the security of their families was not a popular option. Still, the expensive campaign by the union swayed many of the workers into voting for the proposal… but not enough. Meanwhile, VW seemed to handle the entire affair with class.

Sebastian Patta, vice president for human resources, said, “While there was intense outside interest in this election, our managers and employees inside the plant maintained high quality production and continued to work together in a calm and respectful manner.”

“Our commitment to Tennessee is a long-term investment. We look forward to continuing to work with the state of Tennessee and the city of Chattanooga to support job creation, growth, and economic development today and into the future,” Fischer added.

Less reported in the course of this debate was the potential expansion of the plant and how Tennessee would handle it. VW has been looking to add yet another production line in Chattanooga for sports utility vehicles. This would generate even more jobs, both directly and indirectly. When the company first moved into the area, the state put together a generous package of incentives to help them get off the ground. There was already talk of a smaller, secondary package to get the new line started, but local politicians were saying that if the union came in and began kneecapping VW, such a package would have less of a chance of being passed.

In addition to that, people I spoke with also questioned why they needed such big gun protection “against” VW in the first place. Working conditions at the plant were described as very safe, the pay there was some of the best in the area and the benefits plan offered by the automaker is generous. Why start poking a stick in their eye?

Chattanooga has undergone a serious rebirth over the past couple of decades. Once a declining area with crumbling infrastructure, a lot of work and smart investment has turned the city into a tourist destination while simultaneously seeing several major employers – including Amazon, in addition to VW – opening up shop and bringing jobs to the low tax, high worker availability area. With the rejection of the UAW, residents seem hopeful that this trend will continue.

All of this may come as a surprise to President Obama, who was sure he was on the right side of history on this one.

President Barack Obama on Friday waded into a high-stakes union vote at Volkswagen AG’s plant in Tennessee, accusing Republican politicians who oppose unionization of being more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers…

Obama said everyone was in favor of the UAW representing Volkswagen except for local politicians who “are more concerned about German shareholders than American workers,” according to a Democratic aide who attended the meeting with Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

How wrong can you be? The reason that position turned out to be such a bust for the President is an important one. After fierce debate, the workers were allowed to cast secret ballots in this vote, eliminating the union intimidation tactics which many feared. When they were left free to make their choice without worrying about repercussions, the workers chose to represent themselves locally and not invite the UAW to come in and begin killing the goose which has thus far been laying golden eggs.

UPDATE: (Jazz) Doug Mataconis reflects on how this specific vote demonstrates the advantages of right to work policies for workers, not politicians.

In the end, though, the question of whether or not to unionize at this particular plant is one that was left to the workers and they are the ones who made the decision not to unionize. That’s how it ought to be in every part of the country, to be honest, and it’s one of the things that makes “right to work” laws far better than the “closed shop” rules that dominate in much of the north and (what’s left of) the industrial Midwest. The idea that people should be forced to be part of a Union in order to get a job is something that ought to be considered a relic of the 20th Century that ought to be abandoned..

Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air



Trackback URL


Comment pages: 1 2 3


Bmore on February 16, 2014 at 9:24 AM

I guess the UAW union thugs didn’t threaten enough VW workers’ families, and were also unable to rig the election.

Back to work, UAW brown shirts. Gotta work harder to make sure those ballots are public and not private, so they know you know who they are and where they live. Maybe Comrade O and Grand Inquisitor Holder can help.

farsighted on February 16, 2014 at 9:57 AM

I just bought an amoire at a consignment shop for more storage and it was solid wood, made in America and $160. North Carolina is hurting because of the lack of furniture and fabric mills. There are a lot of things made more difficult than it should be to do business here, the EPA being amongst them.

Cindy Munford on February 15, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Cindy, if you buy a product used (“consignment shop”), it doesn’t matter what country mfd it since your money goes to the owner of said used product, not the company/workers who mfd it. You could make a case that you are rewarding the person who bought American & hope that they will do so again if they are replacing the product (with your cash). IMO that’s a bit of a stretch to justify country of origin when buying used.

mdenis39 on February 16, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Don’t really understand the “blue-collar” mentality that wants to belong to a pressure-group whose sole purpose is to stand up to employers thought to be waging a political war against their employees.

In every job I had, if I didn’t like the conditions, I left for better ones. But the noble blue-collar worker is somehow supposed to be proud of the fact that he is an economic captive who cannot improve his skills, cannot move to another town or even another job.

Loyal union members sees themselves as the helpless serf and the Union as their guarantee to a life-long meal-ticket.

Not blaming union members who had no choice about it. At least the VW workers in Chattanooga had that choice but decided not to be slaves of the left.

virgo on February 16, 2014 at 12:54 PM

I am not currently a member of a union (thank goodness!), but I’ve been a member of three unions throughout 38 years of employment. In my observation, unions either pretend to do things for the workers while taking their money and scramming OR they demand way too much from the employers. They seem to think the employers have an endless pool of money somewhere that doesn’t rightfully belong to them.

I have no grudge against the rich. Rich people hire people like me and pay me, and I am grateful to those people who have provided me with employment. I wouldn’t want to be rich because there are too many people out there that would want to take that wealth from me.

I know how hard things can get financially, and I can’t say that I’ve always been happy with my own circumstances, but God has always provided for me and my family and I need to thank Him every day for the employment that provides us with a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on our table.

wutzupdak on February 16, 2014 at 9:57 PM

Surely the President can solve this problem for the UAW with an Executive Order OR the NLRB can put a new regulation into the Congressional Record?

Another_Concerned_American on February 16, 2014 at 11:24 PM



Auto workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN voted against unionization with the United Auto Workers yesterday. This is a crushing defeat for the UAW who had lobbied workers at Volkswagen for years. Moreover, this defeat spells the end for the corrupt union machine that owns the Democrat Party. Especially since Volkswagen had basically green-lighted unionization of its Tennessee workforce! Germans love them some labor unions. Americans, errrr, not so much! Especially in the South! Red states have seen the disastrous results of corrupt labor unions in the North!

Liberals love to blame corporate greed on American jobs being moved overseas. But, as usual, liberals are wrong. The truth is labor unions and government are the real reasons America is bleeding jobs to China, Mexico, Brazil, India, etc. Unions and government have run more businesses away from America than any other factors. Businesses in America exist to make money, not to provide jobs. A company that continually loses money will soon go out of business unless the federal government bails it out with taxpayer dollars as Bush and Obama did with General Motors. Not surprisingly, the GM bailout cost taxpayers billions which will never be returned.

Do you think a guy who turns a wrench in America is worth $85,000 per year when a fuzzy little foreigner could turn the same wrench for a tenth of that? Thirty years ago, America pretty much had a lock on auto production and other manufacturing. Not anymore. In the global economy, America has to be competitive or close business doors.

Unions have extorted businesses and consumers with outrageous pay and benefit plans for their members for generations. Unions have also protected worthless workers by holding businesses hostage by not allowing lazy, incompetent workers to be fired for cause. The ridiculous system of union seniority protects those who have been on the job the longest rather than promote the most talented, productive and ambitious. A system that promotes laziness and incompetence when ambition and talent is needed to return America to global competitiveness.

The federal government is the other culprit in running away American jobs. Do you think China or our other global manufacturing competitors have to abide by FICA, FUI, SUI, ADA, FMLA, HIPAA, COBRA, EEOC, ObamaCare and the other shackles imposed on American businesses? If so, you’re stupid enough to be a liberal and probably belong to a union! Each of these programs imposed on American companies adds dramatically to the cost of doing business on American soil. We are already at a disadvantage.

Also, the federal government and its love of over-generous programs and laws designed to protect workers has basically replaced what labor unions once did. In reality, labor unions are mere funding machines for the Democrat Party. They extort dues from union members and buy Democrat politicians who vote to protect corrupt labor unions.

Murphy9 on February 16, 2014 at 11:30 PM

Unions have been a death knell everywhere they appear. Look at Detroit as one past example of how they corrupt, steal and destroy everything they touch.

Look no further than some of the Blue States that have large government unionized work forces for the coming disasters.

The money taken from employees paychecks is used for some of the most nefarious political purposes. Unions were some of the biggest financial backers of Barack Obama and efforts such as Obamacare. Why? Is that how unions “represent” their workers? Pish posh.

Unions are well past serving any useful purpose to the workers. They simply steal people’s hard earned wages as a means of enriching themselves. They’ve left, or are destined to leave, nothing but destruction in their wake.

Now, especially in the Barack Obama economy, people need their wages more than ever. Good riddance to the unions.

Marcus Traianus on February 17, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Nice factory you have here. Its a shame you can’t get garbage picked up or union truck drivers to deliver your materials.

simkeith on February 17, 2014 at 11:51 AM

It will be interesting to see how Sen. Corker’s union busting plays out. Will the company use the vote to drive down wages and benefits, or will it bring more business and jobs to Chattanooga as Corker promises?

Constantine on February 17, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Where do these people come from?

Murphy9 on February 17, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Tennessee VW workers REJECT unionization bid by UAW.

This thread is dead but, no matter, a final word.

Nothing is ever over as long as the UAW is still around and Obama is still president.

Obie, fulfilling a campaign promise,could sign an executive order, making it mandatory that union officials know exactly how each worker voted in any unionization decision. The union could then target any nay-sayers with veiled threats’ ‘THAT’S A STEEP HILL YOUR WIFE HAS TO DRIVE DOWN TO THE GROCERY. IT WOULD BE A SHAME IF THE BRAKES FAIL.”Before you can say ‘extortion’ the re-vote will lead to an overwhelming union “victory”.

Too bad VW moved to Canada and the newly unionized UAW workers joined Obama’s burgeoning unemployment lines.

MaiDee on February 17, 2014 at 5:47 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3