Unions are the donor backbone of the Democratic party. But the Republicans and conservative groups put on a full court press in Chattanooga to make sure there wouldn’t be one, according to Steve Greenhouse of the New York Times.
The United Auto Workers wanted to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Last September a majority of VW workers signed cards that said they wanted the U.A.W. to represent them. Volkswagen said they would not get in their way. After all, in Germany, Volkswagen’s home country, workers were unionized. The president of the union, Bob King, was coasting to a win which would have made the plant the first unionized auto manufacturer in the south:
He and his union through they would win partly because Volkswagen, unlike most American companies, vowed to remain neutral and not appose unionization.
But at the final count, the United Auto Workers lost. Workers voted down unionization 712-626.
It wasn’t management that stopped the union drive. It was the Republican Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker. They lied. They said if the workers voted to join the U.A.W. they would drive away future business:
Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, said VW executives had told him the plant would add a second production line, making sports utility vehicles, if workers rejected the U.A.W.
They also blamed Detroit’s troubles on the U.A.W. Volkswagen wanted a German style works council as they had in Germany, with white collar and blue collar workers debating work rules and policies. Some legal experts said that wouldn’t be possible without a union. It sounded like Volkswagen wanted the union more than the workers:
After the vote, Frank Fischer, the chief executive of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said:
“Throughout this process, we found great enthusiasm for the idea of an American-style works council. Our goal continues to be to determine the best method for establishing a works council in accordance with the requirements of U.S. labor law.”
Many workers thought the U.A.W. would cause confrontations and bought the phony line peddled by the Republicans that the U.A.W. was responsible for Detroit’s woes.
Whaddya gotta do to get a union in America?