The UAW can write off organizing Volkswagen’s U.S. plant in Chattanooga. The effort has been damned by German unions. Volkswagen’s works council will explain to Chattanooga workers that there is no pressure from German unions for them to join the United Auto Workers union. With Reuters taking notes, Volkswagen works council chief Bernd Osterloh offered the most lukewarm support he can afford to give as a union brother:
“Of course, we will support the UAW; we’ve said that all along. But there’s one thing we cannot do. We can’t take workers at VW Chattanooga by the hand when it comes to voting on UAW representation. One has to be in favor if one wants union representation.”
In March, the UAW had been handing out signature cards in Chattanooga as a first step to gain representation in Chattanooga. Apparently, this did not produce the expected echo. In April, the UAW backpedaled and said they did not mean it. Yesterday, Osterloh mentioned that “sentiment in the southern U.S. isn’t exactly in favor of unions.”
Without forceful support from Germany, the union drive in Chattanooga is doomed. Said a source in Tennessee:
“The workers in Chattanooga were angry when the UAW claimed that it had the support of the works council in Germany and that turned out not to be true. The workers identify with Volkswagen, not with the union.”
The Volkswagen works council has picked up on that detail and might offer Chattanooga workers representation without the UAW. Said Osterloh:
“Should workers determine they don’t want a union, we would make efforts to bring about some sort of interest lobby. It’s important that this site has a voice on the global works council.”
Not gaining a foothold in the south would be a major setback for a union that is losing money and lives off its savings. The UAW had been betting on support from the German metal workers union IG Metall, and that support just isn’t there. German unions would rather gain a power base of their own in the U.S.