UAW Rejected by VW Workers in Tennessee
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) The United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Union's (UAW) campaign to unionize workers at the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. was soundly rejected. By a 7% margin (712-626), the workers said no to the UAW.
This is a huge setback for American Big Labor. Unionization of the plant should have been a done deal. VW is union friendly. President Barack Obama's National Labor Relations Board has fast tracked unionizing votes, which provides greater advantages to pro-union employees.
But it shows that unions, especially autoworkers, are still feeling the effects of what happened to Detroit's Big Three automakers, according to some. They think that inflated wages and benefits, coupled with ridiculous productivity-damaging work rules, and bad management combined to bankrupt GM and Chrysler, and nearly sent Ford into bankruptcy.
There is no question the UAW has some image problems to resolve. Published reports of unnamed Chattanooga VW employees stress reluctance to join the UAW because of the images of labor unions generally and automobile workers in general.
But some do not think image was the big issue. They feel that other factors rather than published reports of incidents of union violence, corruption, and greed or government prosecutions of union officials played a role.
"I think any kind of fair, serious analysis of what happened in Tennessee needs to put the vote in the context of the history of labor unions in the South," said Gene Carroll, co-director of the New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute. "It's a virulent and violent anti-union history in which employers exploited racial divisions to obscure workers' common interest in standing together. These cultural and historical issues have deep roots which extend back to the period even before the first amendment rights to freedom of assembly were adopted late in the 18th century."
He acknowledges that the autoworkers union have some image problems.
"But the stereotype that the automobile workers are overpaid and underworked is a canard," he emphasized. "The labor movement built the middle class in America. The jobs that the auto workers negotiated for under the law of the land are the types of jobs that are disappearing in America. And why is that? Are workers demanding too much? How can that be when inequality is increasing in the United States?"
Others see the union image as the main problem in the organizing effort. They think there is a correlation between labor unions and companies going out of business.
Bruce Cameron, a professor of labor law at Regent University in Virginia and co-authored of a section of a judicial handbook entitled A Judicial Guide To Labor and Employment Law think stereotyping played a role in the decision.