I spent quite a while down in Chattanooga, Tennessee a few years back, part of it interviewing people from United Auto Workers (UAW) and workers at the Volkswagen plant there as they battled their way through the unionization process. That eventually failed, with the employees voting to go with an internal employee representation and bargaining structure. Needless to say, the union wasn’t thrilled with that outcome, but in a right to work state like Tennessee, you win some and you lose some, right?
Not so fast. The UAW is mounting another effort to unionize the employees there. But this time, they’re doing it during a rather disadvantageous news cycle. The UAW has gotten themselves into a considerable bit of trouble with the courts over corruption allegations, and a union watchdog is running ads in the area reminding everyone (particularly the workers at the plant) just where their dues money would be going if they sign on with the UAW. (Free Beacon)
A labor watchdog is making the United Auto Workers’ bribery scandal the centerpiece of its campaign urging workers to reject unionization.
The UAW is attempting to gain a foothold in right-to-work Tennessee, pushing to organize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga that rejected a previous union vote. The election will take place just weeks after a top union official pleaded guilty for his role in a bribery scandal at Chrysler. The Center for Union Facts has made it a priority to inform workers of corruption ahead of the vote, taking out full-page ads in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Wednesday.
“Think the UAW has workers’ best interests in mind?” the ad says. “Multiple union officials pleaded guilty in a scheme to enrich themselves with worker training funds. The union has paid more than $1.5 million of members’ dues to defend itself in the investigation.”
The Justice Department has been pursuing corruption and bribery charges against the UAW for a couple of years now. Most famously, former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell pleaded guilty to taking expensive vacations on Chrysler’s dime when he was supposed to be negotiating against them. The amount of dues money they flushed into legal defense efforts and fines doesn’t seem to have been spent directly on the welfare of the union members. Add that to the amount they spend on politics and it’s not hard to see how the workers might feel they could cut a better deal on their own.
Through all of this, I will freely admit that Volkswagen has been about as fair and impartial as they could be. They’re coming from a very European mindset and they never seemed to particularly care if there was a union in the house or if the workers wanted to organize their own representation plan. They just wanted some employee official to talk to when negotiating things like salaries, benefits, and working conditions. By all accounts, they already have that in place now.
Will this scandalous information about the UAW resonate with the workers and keep them out of the UAW’s clutches? The auto workers down there seem like a pretty independent-minded group, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this unionization effort goes in the same direction as the last one.