American Elephants

United Auto Workers Stunned by Devastating Defeat at Volkswagen. by The Elephant's Child

Workers at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant firmly rejected the United Auto Workers union’s bid to break into the right-to-work state on Friday.

The plant rejected the UAWs attempt to unionize the plant 712–626, in spite of an aggressive campaign by the union, and with the cooperation of Volkswagen. Union opponents, including Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom, celebrated.

The rejection of a key Democrat Party ally came in spite of President Barack Obama’s improper personal support for the unionization drive. “Tennessee Republicans “are more concerned about German shareholders than American workers,” Obama said shortly before the vote was announced.

Previous failed UAW campaigns at Nissan and Honda plants were resisted by employers, but Volkswagen did not resist the union here. The company has said it favors the creation of a German-style “works council,” which gives workers a voice on a variety of product and other decisions. Under American law, a union must represent employees for a company to form a works council.

In Germany, high-school students are separated into vocational training programs early on. and I suspect that workers’ relations with German unions are quite different than workers’ relations with the UAW here. The United Auto Workers were stunned by the devastating defeat. They had hoped that with Volkswagen’s cooperation, they could break into the foreign-owned Southern factories, in spite of a region wary of organized labor. More and more states are becoming “right-to-work”as the example of Detroit competes with the pitches of union organizers.

Union’s incessant efforts to boost pay and benefits for workers seem less enticing when measured against shuttered factories, lost jobs and lost benefits in the examples so prominent in the news. Tennessee auto workers seem to be quite happy with their employer.  It usually helps the union cause if workers hate their boss, and feel mistreated.

It would be interesting to know if President Obama’s constant efforts  to push  unions help or hurt his cause.  He has certainly been involved,  not the job of a president.


2 Comments so far
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It didn’t help matters that what the UAW did to the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, TN was so fresh in local memory. When the UAW moved in, costs went up, productivity went down. There are several Saturn veterans working at the VW plant, and I’m sure they let their opinions be known. VW also had its share of misery from the UAW with the Westmoreland Plant near New Stanton, PA.

Add that Tennessee is a Right-to-Work state, and that the pay and benefits package that Volkswagen offers is already so good, the UAW had little to offer.

That plant is a neat place… I have a friend that ordered her car from there, and she and I took the tour before she picked her new diesel Passat (with 0.7 miles on the odometer!)


Comment by Lon Mead

In the articles I saw, more than one VW employee remarked on VW being the best boss they’d ever had. The UAW, and the industrial unions have long based their existence on a bad relationship between worker and management. If you like management and feel well treated, then why unionize? Sometime in all the kerfuffle of Obama taking over the auto unions, there was a video of autoworkers heading for a nearby park at lunchtime to drink and smoke dope.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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