By on July 11, 2011

Earlier today Bertel noted that the UAW’s goal of organizing “at least one” transplant automaker could be motivated by a desire to earn “brownie points” from the Detroit automakers. But the question that has remained unanswered ever since the union announced its transplant campaign is “which automaker will let the UAW into its plant?” Now that question may have its answer, as Automotive News [sub] reports:

Volkswagen AG and the UAW have intensified discussions about organizing workers at a new plant in Tennessee, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported in a preview of an article that will run Tuesday.

The newspaper, citing Volkswagen officials, said the union and automaker have held meetings and a workshop over the matter in the past few weeks.

VW insists that talks are still preliminary, and that no organizing campaign has yet begun. But, say the UAW, VW’s long tradition of worker unions “more willing to talk to unions about representation.” Ultimately VW says the decision to organize “belongs to our workers alone,” which implies a lot more openness to organization than Honda, for example, has indicated. But Southern workers seem to be largely ambivalent towards the UAW, so just because VW could let organizers into the plant doesn’t mean workers will necessarily vote for union representation. Meanwhile, there’s no word on how a possible UAW organizing campaign could affect a possible new VW/Audi assembly and engine plant that is being considered for the US according to AN [sub]. With Audi execs insisting on the need for more US production capacity, a UAW win in a Volkswagen vote could have serious implications for the firm’s future expansion.

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19 Comments on “Will VW’s New Chattanooga Plant Become The UAW’s First Southern Outpost?...”

  • avatar

    The number one issue for the UAW is; What’s in it for the workers? There isn’t one issue that they can hang their hat on and say, “vote for us and we’ll make it better.” Nothing.

    I doubt that the UAW will have any conquest representations ever again. It’s old, toothless and worthless.

  • avatar

    Well, one has to remember that [german] Unions basically control the VW board of directors (though the german board is a bit more passive than US ones seem to be). German “Mitbestimmung” guarantees the workers representatives (which usually are union people) half of the seats on the board. The other half goes to the shareholders. In case of split decision, the chairmans vote counts double, the chairman is appointed by the shareholders.

    In VWs case, two of the shareholders seats belong to the state government, meaning they are rather close to the workers interests (almost 100.000 of VW employees still work in Niedersachsen). Also, due to the arrangement after the failed Porsche take-over, the workers will probably become sizeable shareholders (I’ve read about 3%) quite soon themselves. And, due to the former VW law (now included in VW’s “articles” (Satzung, not sure about the translation), the approval of the workers representatives is needed for opening and closing of plants, major restructuring, etc.

    So, there really is no way a company with unions that strong could now say “We don’t want our US workers to unionize”. The fact that the IGM hasn’t yet cried out over the fact, that the US workers are not, is already quite surprising imho. Though they have been working quite closely with the VW management in recent years, in return to job safety guarantees, new jobs, etc…

    I’d guess that VW is quite happy about the fact that southern US people don’t really seem all that eager to unionize themselves.

    PS: I wouldn’t be so sure if a decision in Chattanooga would have that much consequences for a possible Audi plant as well. While Audi also has quite strong unions and is, in the end, owned by VW, they do operate separately quite heavily. [For example, union deals regarding VW in Germany, almost never include Audi. Not even all of VW, usually they are only talking about the 6 VW factories in former West Germany.

    I’d say that Audi as a company might be more comparable to Daimler or BMW regarding Union involvement than VW, and I could imagine the same for a possible US plant.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but do you really think the shareholders are going to vote their principles over their pocketbooks? I doubt it. And I sincerely doubt any Germans give a hoot about U.S. workers, union or otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      German Unions certainly have a much larger influence inside the large companies of Germany than they do in the US, but that is a long way from having “control”.

  • avatar

    “VW could let organizers into the plant…”

    I’m not sure if I’m interpreting this out of context, but doesn’t VW have to, under US Labor Law, let the union in, and the workers by vote, then decide if the union stays or leaves?

    • 0 avatar

      I believe that is the case, Robert.Walter, but it doesn’t mean that VW necessarily has to be gracious about it. ;-)

    • 0 avatar

      This is certainly the case in Canada. Up here it is against the law for an employer to put up any sort of direct resistance against unionization. They only way they can stop the virus once it gets in is to shut down entire operations, as Walmart did with one of its stores in Quebec after it unionized.

  • avatar

    Shouted at a UAW transplant meeting with workers, “Go back to your goddamned detroit shit-hole you carpetbaggin yankee!”

    I wish I could be there to hear it.

  • avatar

    Looks like Automotive News did a bit of sloppy translation on the story: the talks are actually between UAW and the VW works council, not UAW and VW itself.

    “Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the talks were between the UAW and Volkswagen AG.

    Volkswagen AG’s works council and the UAW have intensified discussions about organizing workers at a new VW plant in Tennessee, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported in a preview of an article that will run Tuesday.”

  • avatar

    With the UAW holding seats/part ownership of GM, it seems this would be a conflict of interest. VW would not want UAW reps comparing and sharing between the two.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      That doesn’t seem to be a problem in Germany.

      Besides, Goldman Sachs has a virtual seat in the boardrooms of many competing companies around the world and seems to manage just fine!

  • avatar

    If VW Chattanooga is run anything like Hyundai Montgomery (bringing new wealth to a depressed region, building recreational facilities for employees, etc.) then the UAW parasites might as well head back north where they came from.

  • avatar

    Well that would be a reason not to ever by a VW. I’m done buying any more UAW built vehicles. Bunch of thugs.

  • avatar

    Let the workers decide, by secret ballot, if they need the UAW to fight their battles for them.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly right GS650G. Unionization shouldn’t be forced on anybody. But if the workers vote (by secret ballot and not just signing a card) the union in, then so be it. Whatever side wins, the other side should just shut up about it.

      • 0 avatar

        We see how the UAW views free choice, the oxymoron known as the Employee Free Choice Act sidesteps the secret ballot so good old fashion intimidation can be used for the greater good. Of Unions.
        If Hyundai or Toyota was running a prison camp down there making cars you best believe Gettlefinger’s phone would have rung years ago. I think around 17 people showed up at a rally outside the Toyota plant.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure…let it happen. Unless you are living here in Chattanooga you really don’t get the sense of how anti-union we are. IBEW does good apprenticeship work, but aside from that there is a historical hatred towards unions here.

      It will fail.

  • avatar

    When VW opened up in Pennsylvania in the 70s, they hired GM people to run it and brought in the UAW.

    That lasted about 10 yrs, IIRC.

    Surely this time they are more aware.

  • avatar

    Typo taken care of: “Will VW’s New Chattanooga Plant Become The UAW’s last Southern Outpost?”

    np, you’re welcome.

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