By on March 20, 2013

The head of Germany’s metal worker union IG Metall, Berthold Huber, urged workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant to join the UAW. In a letter distributed to Chattanooga workers, obtained by Reuters, Huber says:

“In Chattanooga, you need union representation.”

“We strongly recommend that the eligible employees at Volkswagen, Chattanooga, decide that the UAW should represent them.”

Last week, Volkswagen’s  HR chief Horst Neumann said Volkswagen is in talks with the UAW about setting up a German-style works council in Chattanooga.

Reuters sees Neumann’s comments  as “about-face for an automaker that has resisted opening the U.S. plant to the UAW.”

However, it should be kept in mind that Neumann is a delegate of IG Metall, one of the strange twists of labor relations at large companies in Germany.  Also however, if the IG Metall wants it, Volkswagen management most likely will not say no.

With Europe in trouble, and a free trade agreement with the U.S. and the EU on the horizon, German unions don’t want plants abroad to be too competitive.

In the meantime, IG Metall has come under strong criticism for its role in cutting a deal with GM over Opel. Workers at three Opel sites in Germany approved a plan that will end car production in Bochum after 2016, but will keep 1,200 jobs there.  Who has not voted on the plan are the Bochum workers. They will vote tomorrow, after their works council chief  Rainer Einenkel complained about  “very strange and not really helpful” deals that would split the workers.

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49 Comments on “Solidarity Forever: IG Metall Paves UAW’s Way To Chattanooga...”


  • avatar
    tresmonos

    whiskey tango foxtrot

  • avatar
    Hummer

    “German unions don’t want plants abroad to be too competitive.”

    What more needs to be said?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      True but then VW (or whomever) will just move to the third world and be done with it. VW especially has the cash to do whatever it wants be it pay higher wages or close up shop and move elsewhere.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Hell, if it were my company/money I would, why stay in such a hostile business climate when there are people in 3rd world countries that would be extremely appreciative just to have a job, to provide for their families. For less cost at that.

        Also have less regulation less taxes to deal with at that

        • 0 avatar
          Athos Nobile

          Third world countries also have Unions. And sometimes the labor regulations climate is even worse than in the 1st world.

          Also there’s less infrastructure, which raises costs and makes even basic business tasks to become unnecessarily difficult.

          There are different levels of 3rd world countries. Some are less poor than the others.

          Labor is only a fraction of the whole picture.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            True, but you can still find practical third world countries to welcome you with open arms, but still have basic work standards to ensure that unions are pointless (but when has that ever stopped them)

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            I am unaware of any final assembly being in 3rd wolrd countries – just 2nd world.

            Parts / supplier operations? Totally different story.

        • 0 avatar
          HerrKaLeun

          Less regulation means they have to pay off a local warlord for “protection”, their workers have even less education than in the US, electricity will be supplied intermittently, half of the supplies get robbed, or arrive very late due to lack of roads, no or bad internet….

          all the people who think the EU and US are so terrible with taxes and regulations, why are you still here if there apparently is a paradise country? which one exactly?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            “even less education than in the US”

            Kinda hard to beat the US in education we have over 99% of our people with a basic education, so of course it’s bound to have less then the US, but so is every other country on the earth.

            And I still live here because this is a consumer nation, things that can’t be outsourced, in my case energy, do well, however for tasks that require no skill and are easily outsourceable, such as assembling vehicles, their much better off in a place with less burden.

            You say education like it’s something required to assemble a vehicle, the assemblers are NOT the engineers, the assemblers have a monotonous single and small few jobs to do over and over, getting someone with education is undesireable since their much likely to leave for greener pastures since they have more oppertunities availible to them

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Mexico is pretty sweet. I quite like it down there.

            Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands are pretty great for economic freedom as well.

        • 0 avatar
          VWTRUTH

          Tax free for first 3 years.

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        You didn’t read the upcoming free-trade agreement between US-EU. with that VW could more easily shift production from Europe to the US and vice versa. Who cares how cheap labor is in a country with no trade agreement (plus the infrastructure, education, security etc. issue)

        and you could say the IG Metall does this out of solidarity, but the VW plants have to compete with each other for products lines, investment money etc. and implementing a militant union in your “competition” really would help your own plant.

        This has nothing to do with solidarity. the UAW never stands up for the rights of workers who make iPads, the IG Metall workers also happily buy cheap TVs made under slave conditions. The Chinese electronic factory worker doesn’t endanger the comfortable auto union job, so they can continue working for $1/day.

      • 0 avatar
        philadlj

        …third world…second world…

        Whoa…Cold War’s over! We call ‘em “developing” or “emerging” nations now…don’t we? :)

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    This is really going to confuse the United Soviets of AmeriKa. Is buying a UAW fumbled VW going to be an acceptable demonstration of collectivist vigor in spite of all those profits and all that R&D money being sent outside of Democratic voting districts? Hilarious.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Why all the hate? The German system of union representation, collective bargaining and their system of apprenticeships works very well, especially for the working class.

    Why all the hate?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      That isn’t what they’re recommending for Chattanooga. They’re trying to get the workers in Tennessee to indenture themselves to the UAW, which has a history of causing job losses, industrial decline, disenfranchised workers, adversarial workplaces, poison workers that can’t be dismissed until everyone is dismissed, collecting dues for political lobbying purposes that will be detrimental to Tennessee, and the UAW has a vested interest in GM and Chrysler succeeding at VW’s expense. IG Metal is advocating these things in order to make their kingdom more prosperous at the expense of VW’s US workforce. That’s a good reason for the hate.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      In addition to what CJ said, even the Germans know that a unionless facility is more competitive then a union facility, they realize unions are useless leechs in todays society and unions are doing everything they can to hold on.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Then why is the German working class in such a better position than the working class in the US?

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Depends what sector your talking about, You can get a lot more for a lot less money in the US, so better off.. I don’t think so.
          I have no clue how european unions have adapted over time, I’m sure they still cause uneeded expenditures, but the UAW I know will take down everything in it’s path for a dollar.

          It’s very costly in Germany, you would have to be doing “well” to stay above poverty. Which also means their money is more devalued then ours(obviously think euro). In comparision to every other country with the euro, Germany is doing fantastic.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “It’s very costly in Germany, you would have to be doing “well” to stay above poverty.”

            Interesting perspective – when were you there last?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            8 years ago on vacation, but my neighbors (who was in the military aka cheap flights) Goes with his family every summer, so he keeps me pretty familiar

            EDIT: His wife is from somewhere around Frankfurt(I think?) so they go to see her family

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “but my neighbors (who was in the military aka cheap flights) Goes with his family every summer, so he keeps me pretty familiar”

            Certainly can’t argue with that,,,

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          Their union contracts are even more costly to get rid of than Belgium’s. That is why they are still there.

        • 0 avatar
          HerrKaLeun

          Germany mainly has better work conditions (vacation, sich-kday, medical insurance etc.) by law which was created through the democratic process with elections etc. Has nothing to do with unions (beyond their political involvement in donating campaign money, like all other groups)
          The workers in Germany are not forced to join a union.

        • 0 avatar
          JD23

          Are they? I know that I have a higher income and more purchasing power than workers do at German companies in the same industry.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Why would the Germans want to go to the US? The US is not competitive globally.

    They are there now because the US vehicles are different (regulations and government incentives), and yes the market was large enough to support the move.

    It would be far more attractive and easier to manage if the Germans move to old Eastern Bloc economies which are now part of the Eurozone.

    There has been a lot of vehicle manufacturers setting up shop over the past 20 years in the Eastern Bloc.

    Even DeWalt makes cordless drills there.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      It’s always amazed me how all these countries are contiguous yet the eastern countries are so far behind the western countries, I’m guessing the sea is probably what caused this occurence?

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

      The Japanese and Germans are already exporting cars from the US. The Kluger you may praise as SUV is very likely imported from the US this year. And it is RHD, ADR complaint. The X5 and M class come for the US too.

      Your argument, that because they have differen standards, an US based factory cannot produce for a foreign market, is a bogus one.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Athos Nobile
        In small numbers relative to the size of the economy.

        Australia exports, this is important to us, but by global standards it could stop tomorrow and the slack would be picked up elsewhere.

        It’s not a bogus one, if the US had UNECE regulations it could export any vehicle it manufactured.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Chatt-VW will hire some former UAW labor lawyer now turned union-busting legal consultant. Drag it through the courts.

  • avatar
    european

    Dear Chattanooga VW workers who might be reading this,

    after reading Hummer’s & CJinSD’s comments above, i would
    advise you to write a letter to all the Bundesländer in Germany,
    “encouraging” them to become right-to-work-länder.

    To return the favor to IG Metall workers.
    If you get my drift WINK WINK

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “i would advise you to write a letter to all the Bundesländer in Germany, “encouraging” them to become right-to-work-länder.”

      It would be really amusing to hear the reaction to that.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    I have no idea about Unions in Germany, and from what I have heard, Unions basically killed the automotive industry in Great Britain. Both European countries, not sure why one worked in one country, and not the other. In the USA, I have to work in Union plants frequently, and when the job is being quoted, I always tell the office to double the time I will spend there to double the time at a Non-Union plant. Non-Union plant, if I need some assistance, I just go ask the manager to give me a body and he grabs one. Union plant, the manager has to go see who is available, who is qualified, I have to explain that i just need a person to step on this pedal while I am working in the electrical cabinet to see which relay is working etc. Then that person shows up not wanting to do it because he is helping a Non-Union person, so he/she does her best to make my job more difficult. In the end this costs the company more money, but they don’t care.

    Also, heaven forbid I keep working during one of the many breaks in a Union shop. I have other customers to get to with down machines, and they are losing money, so I need to finish my job and get to the next one. I have been in a Union shop, and I kid you not, I was almost kicked out while fixing a machine because I was working during the sacred break time.

    Again, I don’t know about European Unions, but Unions in the USA tend to protect poor workers, and hold back good workers. In my world, advance the workers that do an excellent job, fire the ones that suck and well, go get drunk and stoned during their lunch break….oh wait, apparently the Union allows you to do that as well and still keep your job.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I really wonder about pro-union people. Even the worthwhile union members I know realize they’re part of the problem. There are countries where unions have yet to bring the ruin of civilization into focus, but the US isn’t one of them. I used to manage union electricians. The best thing I ever did for my employer was devise a method for keeping them out of the way so we could do their work correctly. I’ve seen the union I dealt with held up as a positive example of a trade union in the US. I’ve also been a card carrying Teamster in order to hold a good paying job while in college. I was taught how not to work without consequence as a result. I have a friend that is walking sunshine. She’s been on a state board of fake ‘renewable’ energy. She’s currently part of a network of motivational speakers. Put a few beers in her, get her going about her time as a production line engineer in UAW plants in Detroit, and she sounds like Rush Limbaugh.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        They’re just like the brand loyalists on this website. Nothing terribly wrong with it, just championing their cause for personal reasons (whatever they may be).

        I wasn’t a Teamster, but I worked with them throughout college.

        The biggest downfall of unions are the work rules. That is what gets me, how inefficient someone can intentionally be whilst hiding behind work rules.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Generally speaking, I’m a person who believes rules are made to be broken. My head would explode if I had to put up with inane rules all day long at work.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Maybe you haven’t been indoctrinated to see those work rules as the bridge between your GED and the next payment on your fishing boat, not to mention the diesel F250 that tows it.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Point taken, but it seems to me when one surrenders to the madness, one gives up any hope he had of thinking freely or making his own path in the world.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Don’t assume that thinking freely or forging your own path are valuable to all people. Indeed, there are many who consider such like the plague.

      • 0 avatar
        MrFixit1599

        I have been witness to the same, depends on the Union and the trade. Some Union plants I go into are fairly free with going outside of their work boundaries, other plants are so restrictive it restricts any involvement or improvement in improving the job they are supposed to be doing. On another note, just because you have an engineering degree and are in “charge”, does not mean you should not at least listen to the person that does the job of actually working on a job. Every now and then there is that person that never had the chance at a college education, and just needed a job. Then they figure out how to become an amazingly talented machine operator or something along those lines. In a Non-Union shop they will advance if they are ambitious. In a Union shop they will be shut down and not allowed to live to their full potential since the Union regulations will not allow them to.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “In a Union shop they will be shut down and not allowed to live to their full potential since the Union regulations will not allow them to.”

          That alone would be enough for me to break unions down in their current form.

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          Re: advancing talent over resume

          I don’t disagree at all. I would point out however that in a desk (non-union) position the same exact dynamic is in play once the company gets to a certain size. I think the issue is rule-making/legislating for the lowest common denominator much more than it is a union vs. non-union thing.

          A lot of the frequent complaints about unions are equally applicable to corporate jobs of all stripes is what I’m saying. Unions get the nob for negotiating those rules into a blue collar work force is all. I can even see why they strike in this context, a white collar employee can (AND THEY DO) walk off with client lists, protected IP, a nasty story to go public with. Factory workers don’t really have that leverage, and frankly white collar workers are flattering themselves with the idea that they contribute more than lineworkers in the modern office context.

    • 0 avatar
      Zas

      Accountability.

      ’nuff said.

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    This is what happened to America:
    When Union bosses have several times bigger salary than President of USA, no wonder that US factories cannot compete.

    http://sweetness-light.com/archive/boilermakers-union-bosses-lavish-pay-perks#.UUqL9BzrzBQ

    …Newton Jones and his family members alone make more than $870,000 in salary…

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Westmoreland…the sequel!

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Public money. These union jobs are so wildly overpaid they are passed through generations:

    “At Carnegie Hall, a vast majority of artists who perform on its stages earn far less than the hall’s permanent stage crew.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/arts/music/28hands.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    http://www.ehow.com/info_12036404_average-annual-salary-stagehand-new-york-city.html

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    It seems like too many times to count, but how many executives got big “golden parachute” payouts when they were replaced in the US for sub par performance?
    I don’t know the particulars of this plant, but if the workers did a decent job, there is nothing shocking to me about the payout. The rank and file are just emulating their bosses.
    On the other hand, the powers that be can have long memories for things like this. Others will watch and take note. There will probably not be another Ford factory opened there for 50 years.


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