Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 15, 2014

Anti-Union Vote Will Kill New Tennessee Production Line

Volkswagen workers reject United Auto Workers

Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., have rejected the United Auto Workers, shooting down the union’s hopes of securing a foothold at a foreign-owned auto plant in the South.
The UAW had advantages in organizing the Volkswagen plant it probably won’t find elsewhere. For starters, Volkswagen — under pressure from the powerful German steelworkers’ union, IG Metall, which holds seats on the company’s board — decided not to resist unionization. The union’s presence would have also allowed the company to set up a German-style “works council,” in which representatives of both workers and middle management offer advice to executives on how to best run the plant.

The workers who voted against the union are stupid. Some rightwing politicians told them that Volkswagen would not build an additional production line there should the workers vote for the union and thereby for a workers council. The boss at the plant denied that. The plant in Chattanooga is now the only major Volkswagen plant without a works council. Such work councils are one of the success factors for Volkswagen.

New production line facilities for Volkswagen are decided by the global board in Germany where the global unions have half minus one of the votes. Where do the people in Tennessee think will those board members put a new production line? At that lone "rebellious" plant where the workers voted against the established management structure that works in the 100+ other Volkswagen factories and for their 550,000 other workers?


Posted by b on February 15, 2014 at 13:48 UTC | Permalink


Think how much more successful VW would be without unions at all! Look at Detroit.

Posted by: therevolutionwas | Feb 15 2014 14:42 utc | 1

Old saying...."No one ever went broke betting on the ignorance of the American worker."

That goes double in the American South. Your're right b. "Idiots"

Posted by: ben | Feb 15 2014 15:19 utc | 2

I work for a union. It is a discouraging time. Organized labor in the U.S. is the smallest it has been in a 100 years. Leadership at most of the big internationals is moribund, sitting on a pile of money as its membership shrinks year in and year out.

A right-to-work initiative is going to be on the ballot in Oregon this fall. If it is successful, which I don't think it will be, one of the most progressive states in country, and part of a solid progressive Pacific Coast bloc, will begin to bleed out. Idaho passed right to work in the 1980s; now it is a right wing white Bantustan.

Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin and darling of the plutocrats for reducing collective bargaining rights for public sector employees (the last part of the economy that is robustly unionized), is seriously being talked up as the GOP presidential candidate now that Chris Christie appears to have immolated himself.

What was unusual about the Volkswagen vote in Tennessee is the company actually remained neutral, as b highlights. But the GOP (for instance, AIPAC's good friend Senator Bob Corker, recently a cheerleader for raining missiles on Damascus) and that old beltway whore Grover Norquist mobilized and scared people by saying a vote for the union is a vote to shut down the plant (which, as b correctly points out, is more likely to become a reality after rejecting collective bargaining).

What unites events in Syria Lebanon Iraq with the surging anti-unionism in the U.S. is the transcendence of obscene fortunes. The Saudis along with others in the GCC effortlessly bankroll jihad to the point now that Salafi groups control a significant amount of territory in the Levant; the same goes for the Kochs bankrolling the Tea Party.

The hubris of the plutocrats, both East and West, is that they think they can somehow avoid the inevitable blowback.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Feb 15 2014 15:46 utc | 3

@3 thank you, very interesting and well put. I used to work for a union myself.

"mobilized and scared people by saying a vote for the union is a vote to shut down the plant"

The funny thing is, had the company done this - threatened to shut down the plant - it would have been illegal under the Wagner Act. It is, simply, one of the oldest tricks in the anti-union playbook. But as there are now right wing ideologues around to poop out anti-union propaganda - it is fair game.

The shocking thing is that the US workers bought it. It does show the increasing power of the media and PR machine in the US (I think the internet and especially social media, for all the good it has done, has been a great boon to the power elites PR efforts). After all, who could believe these two goons have more knowledge of the plant or Volkswagen management style than the UAW, and even Volkswagen themselves? But the drip-drip-drip of rightwing propaganda surely takes effect.

What is interesting, and probably what most frightened the right wing flaks, is that it doesn't sound as if the UAW and Volkswagen were going to engage in a combative relationship, and were instead going to implement the German-style industrial relations. This, of course, would be a disaster for the right-wing as their bread and butter is to attack unions as being obstructionist. An actual working relationship between a company and its workers, along the German model, could even create a new model for some unions altogether, possibly revitalizing their efforts to organize.

Can't have that of course.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 15 2014 16:06 utc | 4

@1 - Hope that was snark...

But, yeah, 'cause we all know how competent and nimble the MANAGEMENT of the US automobile industry was. No, it must all be the fault of the unions - it couldn't possibly have anything to do with bad decisions by management - we know that management had absolutely no control of the situation, nothing that they could have done. After all, nobody could possibly decide to buy those little toy cars from Japan! Nobody could have anticipated the rise in gas prices. Nobody could have foreseen that health care would become a major drag on US competitiveness and headed it off in the 50's by going in with the unions on universal health care. Etc., etc., etc.

Umm - why did the managers of the US automobile companies actually get to draw a salary higher than minimum wage??

Posted by: Bbutch | Feb 15 2014 17:16 utc | 5

Ridiculous! ..Voting against having / joining a Union. But:

Unions are so vilified in the US one can imagine that actually voting for one is considered seditious.

As the article mentions UAW membership has gone from 1.5 million in 1979, to 400 K today.

The UAW does not only represent automotive workers, but aerospace and defense, heavy transport, farm equipment, and more.

UAW itself claims 390 K active members, plus 600 K pensioners.

(These nos. are below insignificant for the US in these industries.)

It is a general trend, and this VW plant is probably just right in the zeitgeist line. (?)

Auto sales in the US have plunged steep since several years.

Chrysler, GM were bailed out with emergency loans and some exceptional bankruptcy deal by the central Gvmt.

That is, by Obama, to prevent job loss, US image slump, more outsourcing, etc.

Ford made slightly different -prescient! arrangements in 2007.

All three are tied to UAW contracts in some measure (idk the details, and they have different statuses), while ‘foreign’, mostly Asian (Nissan..) automotive plants are not and resist the Unions, but see Mitsubishi.

Really imho it takes an expert to sort this out. Opaque factors.

> Not an anti-Union post, just descriptive at my (low) level. (I have also been a Union boss, yeah it is tough..)

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 15 2014 17:39 utc | 6

Union power and the last shreds of confidence in it were effectively killed by NAFTA. How can you depend on a structure that can, at best, negotiate your severance package when the corporation you work for decides that they can save a few dollars a day by moving their factory to China or Mexico?

That said...'idiots' is a fair descriptor.

Posted by: L Bean | Feb 15 2014 17:51 utc | 7

Well b., I guess the United Auto Workers have to elect a different type of work force :-))

(Explanation. this is "Moon of Alabama" named after a song by Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht.
When workers took to the streets against the GDR Communist government in 1956, Bertold Brecht wrote in his diary: "The party distributed leaflets on Stalinallee that the people had lost the trust of the party and would have to work hard to regain it. Maybe the party should dissolve the people and elect a different one.")

Posted by: somebody | Feb 15 2014 19:47 utc | 8

"The workers who voted against the union are stupid."

Yes, it may appear to be stupidity on first glance but it really is far more insidious.

What we are witnessing here - and there are many examples in the US - are the effects of decade upon decade of concentrated neoliberal propaganda upon the minds of the common American citizen.

Year after pernicious year of this mental poison ultimately ends up reducing human beings to life-forms that are in many ways less viable than any animal.

Less than animals? How can you say that?

Well, show me an animal that will consciously engage in actions that will make his own survival less likely? What animal elects to engage in behavior that not only jeopardizes his own life but the very survival of his family and offspring much less his surrounding community and state?

This is what neoliberalism really does, it turns human beings into something even less than animals - creatures that seemingly no longer have the ability or instincts to understand/behave in ways that are beneficial to their own survival.

And I'm not exaggerating. Beside having a quarter of the population that believes that the Sun revolves around the Earth and other sundry idiocies, the propagandized masses can no longer even tell if they are being stolen from, poisoned, caged or killed off because they have seemingly lost the ability to see reality clearly.

Posted by: JSorrentine | Feb 15 2014 22:29 utc | 9

Its not so much that they are rejecting the works council model, they are rejecting the UAW as their representatives in that model and under US law you can't form a competing or join a different union if your industry already has a established national union.

Posted by: heath | Feb 15 2014 23:02 utc | 10

@Bbutch Management made some stupid decisions. Most of them were giving in to union demands.

Posted by: therevolutionwas | Feb 16 2014 2:42 utc | 11

Posted by: JSorrentine | Feb 15, 2014 5:29:57 PM | 8

The animal analogy is a good one.
What seems to have been erased from the American (& Western) psyche is the instinct to fight for one's own survival - to the death if necessary.

My kids had a white rabbit when they were young. It roamed free in the yard during the day. It had a litter. One day I went outside and discovered that it had placed itself between its litter and a marauding cat. I picked up a blunt instrument ready to intervene but, to my amazement, the rabbit proved to be a competent fighter and didn't require my help to discourage the cat.

We in the West tolerate far too much crap from opportunistic "leaders" - both commercial and political.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 16 2014 3:25 utc | 12

NPR reported that the Koch brothers, and other wealthy conservatives, poured huge amounts of money into advertising and other means of scaring the workers at that plant. Among other things, they put up billboards near the plant which said unionizing would lead to their city becoming the next Detroit, as in going bankrupt and having few if any services.

But, I have to admit, Americans scare pretty easily these days, so a conservative stream of their type of "terra, terra, terra" if effective.


Posted by: jawbone | Feb 16 2014 5:03 utc | 13

Instinct can't be erased, you either have it or not. Being a prey is a survival mechanism, as the predator can't consume all of the prey without killing itself in the process. Or in slavery, the slave owner can't destroy all of his slaves without impoverishing himself in the process. At some point, the existing owners ban importation of new labor and “GROW” their own assets through breeding – hence numerical survival of the slave.

A majority of workers chose obedience to the local overlords, wretched and poor life, over disobedience, revolt and the inevitable destruction. b should've mentioned that the state legislature threatened to withdraw tax breaks awarded to VW if the vote passed.

What we may learn from this is that the American owner will fight for their right to run this country as a plantation with the worker only nominally being better than slaves. This is not a capitalist decision. It is a moral and psychological state, may be even a genetic state. If there is a gene for IQ, the must be a gene for the eagerness to enslave others.

Posted by: CC | Feb 16 2014 6:46 utc | 14

9) That sounds awful - where is freedom of association?

You do not have to be in a Union to form a workers council in Germany. Nothing prevents VW to introduce the Workers Councils as part of their management system and nothing prevents VW's Central Workers Council (actually the correct translation is company council) to insist on it in the company branches. A typical German company council is formed by members of different "lists" and people elect on personal knowlegde. They are very close to management and in large companies to politics and they solve this more or less well.

Volkswagen presumably will do just that.

The IG Metall union is pretty efficient in Germany but they have had to struggle to adapt to modern production. Do you realize what a car plant looks like nowadays ? There are very few people on the "shop floor". "Workers" might as well join an engineering or IT union. (IG Metall is cross industry ie all Enginieering, IT) Most of the production will be done by suppliers and contractors. Their workforce has no real bargaining power, except scarceness of qualification and the going rate in the industry. In those jobs, you can bargain as long as you can switch jobs or your place cannot be easily filled.

I don't know what it is in the US nowadays, in Germany you either invest in your qualification or you are on the minimum wage. Collective bargaining is very ritualistic - the scale of the wage increase - or decrease counting inflation - is pretty clear beforehand. Companies can opt out of collective bargaining, only very few companies do - it is not in their interest. The results automatically are applied to non unionized labor also. In a few cases workers decided they were badly represented by their industry union and formed a union based on qualification/job eg. locomotive drivers.

I am a union member but that is a political decision. Professinally/economically I profit only very remotely by a generally rising rate.

If UAW lost this they have to think hard on what they are doing wrong. It is no use to blame workers.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 16 2014 8:19 utc | 15

Actually, it is possible that Tennesse workers knew what they were doing

Sean McAlinden, the chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research, said, “Bob King has been very open that if they don’t organize the transplants, their future as a large automotive union is in jeopardy.” The transplants account for 30 percent of auto sales in the United States, he said, while Detroit’s automakers account for 45 percent and imports the rest.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 16 2014 8:57 utc | 16

“The workers who voted against the union are stupid.”

Who is “stupid”, and who is not is big question. The quoted sentence means that the “workers” have some rights, or some options. At the best this assumption is intellectual dishonesty, at the worst blatant lie. An unions are rather as the Potemkin Villages, pretending they represent workers as in fact they are in service (collusion) in big capital.

To say that the Germans and their ruling circles, or VW management, is going to do a favor to anybody is beyond stupidity. One might asks workers in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Bosnia or Argentina and South Sudan etc. (anybody remember the role of Mercedes-Benz in the junta days?) anywhere where German capital and “investment” empowered local hoodlums.

Finaly, wasn't infamous Hartz IV named after VW's director?

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 13:56 utc | 17

16) Good labor relations are a competitive advantage. Jobs with BMW, Mercedes, VW are sought after - conditions are good. They have to be in a complex work environment. You cannot run car production like a sweat shop.
That is historical. It was Henry Ford - remember ...

The sweat shops are the suppliers who get pressured on prices.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 16 2014 14:06 utc | 18

The insecurity of America’s lower classes is a feature, not a bug. No job security, no income security, no educational security, no health security. As Robert Reich has pointed out, this pervasive insecurity makes people less likely to agitate for better conditions.

For a brief time in the 50′s and 60′s, we had something approaching a just society. Then the rich regrouped after the shock of the New Deal and the interruption of WW II, forged their unholy alliance with social conservatives, and launched the dishonest, relentless propaganda campaign that brought us first the “Southern Strategy” and eventually the reign of St. Reagan.

Posted by: Cynthia | Feb 16 2014 14:34 utc | 19

somebody | Feb 16, 2014 9:06:06 AM | 17

“You cannot run car production like a sweat shop.”

really!? why not?

Ask a workers in Toyota assembly plants about their working conditions. Is there is any better in a "German" world? I doubt.

Henry Ford was one of the most prominent US fascists at the time, staunchly anti Roosevelt (it is not that I am pro Deal person). The myth which is following him is just that, myth. Mythology is part of the US “culture”, you may call it: dominant national narrative.

No wonder, on very basic level "1 in 4 Americans doesn't know Earth circles sun"

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 14:49 utc | 20

"under US law you can't form a competing or join a different union if your industry already has a established national union"

I'm sorry but this is entirely untrue. The workers can join whatever union comes to organize them. There is no such thing as a "national" proscribed union in the US. There are, in fact, often raids among unions for members in the same industry. It is, generally, considered bad form for unions to go after each others members, but it does happen - more recently it happens more often. Labor union 'raids' on rise as rivals seek to boost membership, clout

I presume you have that idea just because it is one of the millions of spurious myths about unions out there. But its the first I've heard that one.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 16 2014 14:56 utc | 21

As Richard Wolf pointed out in his book and in the interview with Bill Moyers, unions were just part of the pecking order structure of the corporations. The big boss, who gets the big bonuses (taken from the workers), makes all the decisions. It is time for work place democracy where everybody has a say and the enterprise is owned by the workers.

Posted by: Cynthia | Feb 16 2014 15:14 utc | 22


First time commenter here, recent convert to the blog. I love a lot of your stuff. You were way out in front on the Syrian situation.

However, I think you're being a little knee-jerk in your reaction by calling the workers 'stupid' and 'idiots'. Some may have genuinely been brain-washed by years of neo-liberal 'race to the bottom' is the only way to win sort of thinking. Others may not have swallowed that kind of thinking, but saw veiled threats in the public statements by Corker and other Republican Party power-brokers.

However, buried in your remarks, there's also a presumption that the UAW can help the workers and protect them. With its sclerotic, often out of touch management structure which spends much more time and energy courting Democratic Party politicians (with little to show) and not so much time and energy fighting to win concessions (when's the last time they had a strike?) and organize additional workers (who's excited by the two-tier wage structure?), it's not hard to look at the UAW as inept and toothless judging by their history over the last few decades.

Unions themselves are due their fair share of the blame. UAW is arguably the poster child for what went wrong with the labor movement in the USA.

Posted by: JohnnyGL | Feb 16 2014 15:21 utc | 23

"It is time for work place democracy where everybody has a say and the enterprise is owned by the workers."

While I would like to see this, realistically it is Utopia. It required non corruptible individuals, and the humans are, more or less, piece of shit. At some point the managerial class must emerges which is inevitably tightly connected with the political class. I do not believe that anybody would be interested after 8-10 working day in anything but the rest.

I think right now the most important thing would be abandoning the dollar as the world currency and accounting unit, i.e. destroying neoliberal/neofeudal concept and anything that follows including false unions which ostensibly protect workers rights.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 15:29 utc | 24

It's a Republican state so it is no surprise that workers will vote for their own destruction. It's been happening for years and now the Dems are even joining in as well. A 25K job with no benefits is what awaits American workers. But they can't say they didn't ask for it.

Posted by: Wells Fargo Must Die | Feb 16 2014 15:41 utc | 25

@20 Just to be clear, there can only be one union representing the workers in one bargaining unit in one "shop" - meaning one defined group of workers in one place of business like factory, a hotel, a university. But should those workers not like the union that represents them, and want to bring in another they can do so. They have to go through the arduous process of card signing and voting - all of which allows management to put on another anti-union campaign and kick both out completely - but it can, and has often, been done.

"An unions are rather as the Potemkin Villages, pretending they represent workers as in fact they are in service (collusion) in big capital."

There is no telling why you would belch out some falsehood, some vast generalization, about a type of human organization that you can find everywhere on earth, from factories in Leipzig to the banana plantations of Columbia, as if they were all the same thing. A type of organization - for their occasional faults - that has done a great deal of good for huge millions of people. That people still today die fighting for.

So go tell a leather tanner in Hazaribagh, Bangladesh, that his tiny union - run by his fellow workers out of a corrugated steel shack just down the street - is a "Potemkin Village... in the service of big capital." You'll be lucky not to leave town as a purse.

Sorry, I have to laugh at you. Henry Ford is a fascist of course but you still can't bring yourself to support the New Deal. So what part is it that has you stuck? Can't stand social security? Don't like medical insurance?

Cynthia has it exactly right - the New Deal is the key battle that US politics has revolved around ever since. In a way it is the same battle that is going on in Venezuela and Brazil right now. That you cannot choose a side on something so obvious then you are the one "in service of big capital." That much is obvious.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 16 2014 15:42 utc | 26

@24 you misspelled your url in your signature. Here it is:

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 16 2014 15:44 utc | 27


I do not except anything new or positive except what you outlined in your post #25. It is not shame to be demented, but it is shame to manipulate or being uninformed. Whether you are guest77 or countless other nicks one pattern emerges from your posts, that is lack of knowledge or insight in the world. Or something third what is described here "The workers who voted against the union are stupid."

or this

or take any of Alan Nasser's articles and educate yourself before you speak up and post anything.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 16:01 utc | 28

Unions are so vilified in the US one can imagine that actually voting for one is considered seditious.

As the article mentions UAW membership has gone from 1.5 million in 1979 to 400 K today.

The UAW does not only represent automotive workers, but aerospace and defense, heavy transport, farm equipment, and more.

UAW itself claims 390 K active members, plus 600 K pensioners.

(These nos. are below tiny for the US in these industries.)

It is a general trend, and this VW plant is probably just right in the zeitgeist line. (.. ?)

Auto sales in the US have plunged steep since several years.. Chrysler, GM were bailed out with emergency loans and some exceptional bankruptcy deal by the central Gvmt, Obama, to prevent job loss, US image slump, more outsourcing, etc. Ford made slightly different -prescient! arrangements in 2007.

All three are tied to UAW contracts in some measure (idk the details, and they have different statuses), while ‘foreign’, mostly Asian (Nissan..) automotive plants are not and resist the Unions, but see Mitsubishi.

Imho it takes an expert to sort this out. Opaque factors.

I’m pro-Union this post is just descriptive.

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 16 2014 16:06 utc | 29


too much of iPhone and apps? New app for Starbucks and McDonalds!

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 16:10 utc | 30

Potted History

Unions or ‘syndicates’, corporations (of ‘workers’, not the modern Corp), professional associations (1), guilds, peasant circles, peasant markets, even employee’s informal meetings, and of course actions like strikes...

were forbidden in France in 1791.

The law included a ban on ALL forms of MUTUAL insurance.

Plus some dispositions about banking in the same direction (i.e. no vanilla deposit banking) but I’m not clear about it so basta.

Plus ca change plus c’est la même chose

1. This went very far. The law dissolved the Faculties of Medecine and its qualifications, in favor of a ‘free practice of medicine.’ As well as scotching other qualifications.

It took until 1864 for that law, it’s offshoots, ramifications, to be repealed.

Loi Le Chapelier, see wiki in F

France remains one of the lowest-Unionized countries in the OECD (or the lowest..), with just 8% of employees affiliated.

(5 of that 8 are Gvmt. employees. That is a whole story for another day. Not a pretty one.)

Posted by: Noirette | Feb 16 2014 16:15 utc | 31

Boeing is having lengthy book-log with orders and is inundated with cash. But still there are no benefits for its workers.

“After battling for months with Boeing Co.'s leadership, the company's largest union approved an eight-year contract that trades hard-fought pension benefits for the right to build the 777X airliner — a bitterly fought concession that underscores unions' uphill battle at the bargaining table.

The contract approved late Friday was negotiated not with a bankrupt city or a struggling manufacturer, but with a company that delivered a record 648 planes last year and whose shares traded at all-time highs on the New York Stock Exchange.”

Unions in the US are mafia style organizations.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 16:18 utc | 33

19) Because the quality of the work counts, simple as that.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 16 2014 18:33 utc | 34


yes? you are not worth of my time to argue with you. get back to your iPhone and apps.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 18:51 utc | 35

No less than 20,800,000 results about Toyota Quality.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 18:54 utc | 36

@n'43 "Whether you are guest77 or countless other nicks one pattern emerges from your posts, that is lack of knowledge or insight in the world."

As you can't seem to analyze the goings on in the blog comments here - as in, who is who and what is what (its all down there in the signature, please pay attention) - so I'm not surprised that you are unable to analyze the goings on in US labor politics.

You have pitifully failed in your attempts to come off as an IT expert here, and you are doing no better on this subject. If my experience was limited to an article in counterpunch and one in the LA Times I wouldn't be so bold as to chatter on about a subject. But since my experience, though not vast, is in fact from working with unions day in and day out over the course of several years, I can say with some certainty that what you know about US unions and US politics wouldn't fill a thimble to the brim.

Now once you have figured out who is making what comments here on MoA, perhaps you can move onto deeper subjects. But please, baby steps, n'43. You wouldn't want to look like an idiot. Again.

Posted by: guest77 | Feb 16 2014 19:54 utc | 37

I agree.

Now go back to iPhone and watch Kardashians. Tomorrow, when at company you can talk with your coworkers about it.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 20:23 utc | 38

for an infantile mind Osborne family too.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Feb 16 2014 20:26 utc | 39

I saw a UAW plant close locally. Over 4,000 employed as recently as the early 2000's.
The PR campaign against the union was horrible. The UAW response was to turn into management and seek out better jobs higher up.
The last act, as it were, was the UAW supporting a huge wage cut so that they could move the plant away cheaper. In a giant show of solidarity, it was voted down almost unanimously. It wasn't a vote on the contract being offered, it was a vote against the UAW who were proposing the terms.

Posted by: bob | Feb 17 2014 5:54 utc | 40

I may be more sympathetic to unions when the law quit giving them special status and treat them for what they are, corporations whose product is -- labor. Let there be competition among labor supply corporations and enforce anti-trust laws against them.

Two relatives of mine (I am from PR) did in the DuPont Plaza Hotel, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The management companies were sued, since the stupid actions, based on policies, that were taken by the employees. The employees, you see, represented the management. Union thugs, in official union strike, actually were the proximate cause of the fire, since they were the one who started the damn fire. Well, the union could not be sued, because the law shielded the union.

My father in-law (RIP), from Mississippi, drove trucks as a union driver and also drove trucks as a company driver, non-union. His eyes were opened during one of his stints as a non-union driver when he experienced the tactics of union thugs in strike.

I say, g-damn the unions and good for the Volkswagen non-union vote.

Now, the workers ought to create an association where, on an ad hoc basis, they can address issues with the management.

Posted by: JaimeInTexas | Feb 17 2014 17:19 utc | 41

JohnnyGl@23, bob@40

The UAW debacle in Tennessee

The vote by Tennessee Volkswagen workers to reject the United Auto Workers was an entirely justified rebuke to an organization that has betrayed the working class for decades. After a two-year, multi-million dollar campaign, the 712-626 vote against the UAW was a stunning defeat for the organization, which believed that the backing of Volkswagen management would ensure its victory.

The so-called “union drive” was an attempt by VW and the UAW to impose the UAW on a work force that did not support the discredited organization, which has not called a national auto strike in nearly four decades and devotes all of its efforts to suppressing the resistance of workers to layoffs, wages cuts and speedup. The UAW and the company attempted to blackmail the workers into voting for the union by suggesting that failure to bring in the UAW would result in a new SUV model being moved to Mexico.

Several media outlets, including the New York Times, blamed the loss on the supposed backwardness of southern workers. This is both false and slanderous. Chattanooga VW workers, including many who migrated from northern cities, are well aware of the disastrous record of the UAW in Detroit and other cities that have been decimated by plant closings and mass layoffs.

Posted by: john francis lee | Feb 18 2014 13:02 utc | 42

If anyone's collecting votes, this one is against the UAW, a Union that specialises in selling out its members.

The anti-Union vote in the VW plant will have had a number of components including "suicidal" voters influenced by crude anti union propaganda. But it will also have included plenty of former UAW members who recall the part the Union played in shutting down plants up north and cutting off rank and file militants to protect the bureaucrats.

There is a reason why the Unions are crumbling and have been since the late forties, and it isn't "right wing" propaganda, but the partnership between anti-socialist Union bureaucrats, the employers they served and the legislatures which, between the Democrats and the Republicans, they have sewn up.

There may not be a Union at the VW plant but the chances of workers talking industrial action in the future are, if anything, greater now than they would have been if the UAW were collecting dues and disciplining "wild catters" or militant workers.

Posted by: bevin | Feb 18 2014 19:51 utc | 43

@ guest 77, no. 21

I think there is some confusion here on this issue by the poster who claimed that US law prohibits a non-industry wide union.

What US labor law prohibits is the formation of an "in house" or "company" union imposed by management. Perhaps this prohibition is what would prohibit the workers council concept from going forward without a vote by labor.

Posted by: sleepy | Feb 19 2014 11:25 utc | 44

In today's FT just as I predicted: Works councils at VW 'key' for further US work

Bernd Osterloh, head of the company-wide works council that takes many vital decisions on VW's future, also said any future investments in the US might avoid the south, where anti-union sentiment is strong and where many foreign manufacturers build cars.

Posted by: b | Feb 20 2014 6:09 utc | 45

b @45 - the link doesn't work anymore.. try this

Posted by: james | Feb 20 2014 6:18 utc | 46

44) you don't need any union for a German company's council. People can stand as individuals.

45) So this is now politics and will be discussed with US conservatives. I guess next year VW US companies will have company councils and unions.

Well done, IG Metall.

Posted by: somebody | Feb 20 2014 8:07 utc | 47

Tennessee Republicans are Anti-Business and Anti-Union

Posted by: Stephen Crockett | Feb 20 2014 15:46 utc | 48

Tennessee Republicans are Anti-Business and Anti-Union

The VW worker unionization vote was the dirtiest union election of the 21st Century and all the dirty tactics were coming from outside anti-union political forces. Without the intimidation and lies of elected Tennessee Republicans along with billionaire financed national Right Wing groups, the union would have won the union representation vote.
Outside groups financed by extremist Right Wing billionaires put up emotionally charged smear campaign billboards blaming the United Auto Workers (UAW) for the decline of the automobile industry in Detroit. These are false charges. Labor costs in total are a very tiny portion of the cost of cars and trucks.

The truth is that trade policy and poor management decisions concerning the types of vehicles built are mostly responsible for the long-term problems and the decline of Detroit.

The most recent crisis that required the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler was the direct result of the collapse of Wall Street and the biggest banks. Sales collapsed because the financing of new car purchases collapsed. Unions certainly played no role in the creation of this crisis. Unions did play a huge role in saving both companies. If either failed, it would have taken Ford down with it since the auto parts suppliers to all companies would have gone out of business. The entire American economy would have gone into another Great Depression. The Wall Street/banking crisis was caused by poor regulation of that industry and abuses by Wall Street/banking insiders. Who pushed thru the deregulation of Wall Street and the banking industry? The answer is mostly Republican politicians and Right Wing billionaire financed organizations like those putting up the anti-union, smear billboards in Chattanooga to defeat the VW unionization vote.

The same Right Wing billionaire groups and Republican politicians (along with some corporatist elected Democrats) largely pushed thru the bad trade policy that created the serious decline of Detroit and the relative decline of the Big Three American automakers.

The irony that those forces who ideas and actions who undermined the American auto industry were blaming the industry’s unionized workers was completely lost on the Tennessee and national media. Nobody seemed to be covering this situation at all. They still are not discussing it.

Another barely covered aspect of the situation is that Republican officeholders used the power of their offices to interfere in this election. The only parties who should have been involved were the workers and the company. VW actually seemed to want the workers to join the UAW. VW has very good relationships with their workers all over the world. They wanted to bring their Worker Council model to the United States to help all American companies and workers establish better cooperation in all workplaces. The UAW was very supportive. The Worker Council model is a huge success and has VW become the international success story that it is.

The Worker Council models, like traditional unions, bring an element of democracy into the workplace. Those forces opposing it are also behind voter suppression laws and actions all over America in our elections to government offices. Their efforts and tactics mirror their actions in these other arenas. They are not friends of democracy in America in government or the economy.

Elected Republicans in Tennessee wanted this model defeated because they profit in terms of campaign donations by the bad worker-employer labor relations situation in the United States. These Republican politicians saw that good labor relations might be good for the nation but would be very bad for them. They went to war with both VW and the UAW just to retain their political power in Tennessee and nationally.

They threatened to pull tax breaks to the manufacturing plant if the workers voted in the union. This was extremely anti-business! The Tennessee politicians and the state government had no business getting involved in this unionization vote. Their actions were completely corrupt and should have been illegal. Governor Haslam and Senator Corker would be facing jail time in a more just society. Their actions are certainly abuses of power not unlike those of the Governor Christie political machine in New Jersey in my opinion. Of course, we are not seeing the media make the same kind of comparison. Threatening tax breaks already granted for blatantly politically partisan reasons certainly seems to need federal investigation by the US Department of Justice.

Statements by Senator Corker about the future product lines from VW seem to be outright lies. They were directly denied by company spokespersons. He claimed that a vote for the union would result in new models going to other plants and seemingly that his information came from top VW management sources. He has not said who those sources are.

It appears those lies and the threats worked on just enough workers to defeat the unionization vote this time. If the media had fully explored the situation and explained the tactics, the outcome would have been very different in my opinion. I hope they will at least get it right after the fact but I believe their class based bias against unions makes that less than certain.

I do hope the federal governments does investigate and prosecute the Republican officeholders who abused their offices to thwart a free and fair unionization vote at the VW plant in Chattanooga.

Written by Stephen Crockett (Editor of Mid-Atlantic

He is a business owner (College, talk show host (Democratic Talk Radio) and union activist. He can be reached by cell phone at 443-907-2367 or email at

Posted by: Stephen Crockett | Feb 20 2014 15:48 utc | 49

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