By on July 10, 2014
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The UAW will apparently form a new local in Chattanooga, Tennessee to represent workers at Volkswagen’s assembly plant. But things will operate a little differently than in traditional union representation setups.

According to The Tennessean

Participation will be voluntary, and there will be no formal recognition of the union by the German automaker until a majority of its workers have joined, UAW officials have confirmed.

“We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees,” UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel of Ashland City said this morning.

“It’s dependent on the employees and what they want to do.”

The arrangement is a bold step towards gaining representation – as well as a UAW foothold in the South – even after the UAW lost a vote held by plant workers to decide on representation. But it makes one wonder why the vote was even held in the first place. To further make matters complicated, a local news outlet is reporting that the end goal of the arrangement would be the creation of a German-style works council.

An official announcement is likely to come this afternoon, but the timing of the move is close to VW’s decision on whether to build their new three-row crossover – a vital product for the American market – in Tennessee or in Mexico.

VW’s supervisory board, where labor organizations have a say in matters, does not want Chattanooga to get the new crossover without some kind of arrangement regarding organization of the plant’s labor – and IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, has deep ties to the UAW. VW conveniently left some wiggle room in the matter, and we may be seeing that manifesting in the “voluntary” union, which has the possibility of being recognized by VW, even though that doesn’t appear to be confirmed.

On the other hand, the Tennessee state government is offering significant incentives to Volkswagen, but is vehemently opposed to the presence of the UAW.

For some time, it seemed as if the UAW’s defeat, as well as the crossover’s production in Chattanooga, was a slam dunk. But now, things have gotten a little more complicated. We’ll have more as the story breaks.

H/T to Jalopnik 

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63 Comments on “UAW To Form Union Local For Volkswagen Chattanooga Workers...”


  • avatar
    thelaine

    Good news for Mexico.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    We need some definition of terms:

    A ‘substantial portion’ is not the same as ‘majority’. Which is it?

    What does ‘deal with’ mean? Would it mean the unionized workers get different working terms, conditions, and benefits from those who are not unionized?

    “It’s dependent on the employees and what they want to do.” Well, that movie already played, and we saw how it ended. Subtract out those whose minds were already made up, and the vote was pretty lopsided against unionization (or the UAW itself).

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Simple answer: Majorities are absolute. What the UAW has is a plurality in essence in that the vote was defeated but the no votes weren’t uniformly ‘no union’ but that they weren’t interested in UAW representation not to mention the State of Tennessee intentionally creating undue influence by making economic threats.

      Deal with means exactly what it says it means. The UAW has every intent to act as the legal bargaining agent of the workers who choose to join. It gets complicated in an open floor system but a plurality of workers who choose to join could sue VW to bargain collectively as a separate unit from those who choose to work against it. Of course the more practical reality is given a few years of priority membership in the UAW and 40-47% joining from the start can simply whittle away at the remaining to get their majority.

      Lopsided? 46% isn’t exactly a huge loss margin, less than 80 votes separated them. I understand you’re anti-union as I am pro-union, but we can sit here and spin the facts all day or you can stop trying to play a game of semantics with reality.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    What the story is saying is that the UAW has chosen to hang out a shingle in Chattanooga and anybody who works at VW and wants to join, can join.

    And maybe, if enough people join, and the union local can afford to keep it’s doors open, then maybe, the VW managers might talk to them about setting up a works council.

    If what we read in the press is true, this is really not much different than setting up a bake sale outside the local Weight Watchers franchise and seeing what happens. Or perhaps it’s like setting up a ministry right next door to the porn shop.

    Everyone seems to forget that the UAW had two plants in Atlanta. One was at the Ford Taurus plant in Hapeville, near the airport. GM had their plant in Doraville where they made minivans. So it’s not as if the UAW is trying to establish a foothold in Dixie.

    They’ve already been shown the door. Good luck UAW. You’ll need it.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Spring Hill, TN, as well.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Problem with UAW, they run a British Leyland like confrontational Union, IGMetal a “”workers council” that gets seats on the boards of various Automobile manufacturers in Germany

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        And this argument is so overplayed out. The point of the matter is no corporation in the United States is allowing organized labor to sit on the board. If you want to complain take it to the corporations who refuse to care for the workers they employ. The US has long had an adversarial nature between corporate control and workers. The Germans were different and remain so, the corporate overlords have no interest in conceding any power to a symbiotic relationship when they can keep driving wages down and outsourcing.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Xerranar
          Everyone is the loser except the Germans. You know how the British Unions ended up, if you want a similar outcome for the US Industry just keep the status quo. The Germans have managed to democratise their operations. So it is not impossible that something similar can happen in the US if Only to improve the efficiency of the plants

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Using British Leyland as an example is frankly just a show of ignorance. The main reason for BL’s failures were the vastly more powerful American automakers flooding Europe with cars that met their desires while BL couldn’t afford to design cars for American tastes. Follow that by the resource poor nation that had to import a majority of raw materials and a smaller labor market all spelled doom. The convenient argument used by conservatives that the Unions were the sole cause ignores the shifting dynamics of the economics in play.

            In other words: America has nothing but the English language in common with Britain in this respect. I’m not against a strong relationship with Labor having a few board seats, that’s greater than what we have currently, but I don’t pretend that the corporate right of this country is interested in that outcome.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @Xeranar
            Ignorance all round . VW Equally disadvantaged , but managed to thrive. British Leyland had poor management/class warfare /in the factories. Not that dissimilar to what is happening now with the US industry

  • avatar
    philadlj

    All of my friends who are in unions are paid much better than me, even if the work they do isn’t always steady. If there was a union for what I do, and if it elevated my compensation and quality of life, and the dues weren’t too dear, I’d join in a heartbeat.

    I also appreciate VW leaving emotion and rhetoric out of these developments, even though other parties aren’t doing the same. It’s of a piece with the same staid Teutonic stoicism and pragmatism that led to Germany’s enormous victory over Brazil.

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      “All of my friends who are in unions are paid much better than me, even if the work they do isn’t always steady. If there was a union for what I do, and if it elevated my compensation and quality of life, and the dues weren’t too dear, I’d join in a heartbeat.”

      Pretty short-sighted. If you are underpaid, find a role with a new company where you are not. If you are not underpaid, and a union promises to increase your compenation, that would require your employer to OVERpay you, and it will seek to fix that through drastic measures (increased automation and layoffs, relocation, outsourcing, etc). Economics. It works, bitches.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Word

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Economics. It works, bitches.”

        The more you know! *NBC chime*

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        “If you are underpaid, find a role with a new company where you are not.”

        Gosh, that was easy. The growing chasm between the .001% of the American population and everyone beneath them, all solved in one pragmatic pull-up-your-bootstraps insprational homily.

        I’m so inspired, in fact, I now plan to create milions of new middle-class jobs to replace those evaporated by Wall Street greed and massive deregulation, then hire myself to fill one of them.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Well, see, that’s the problem now, isn’t it. “Underpaid” isn’t an opinion, it’s a market condition. If the company down the street is paying $20/hr and you’re making $15 for the same thing, you’re underpaid. If there is no company down the street, and you’re making $15/hr, it’s hard to argue why you “deserve” $20/hr, especially if you quit tomorrow and they can have a guy replacing you by the end of the month for $15, or $12.

          I don’t really know how you can argue or disagree with that reality. If there are better paying jobs, go get one. Not qualified? Well, then you aren’t worth the better pay to that company, OR go train yourself until you are. If there are no better paying jobs, it’s kind of hard to argue that you deserve more money, don’t you think?

          Put down the class warfare angry Wall Street hatred BS, and tell me the flaw in the above narrative. You can’t, because you’re too busy being angry at some stockbroker somewhere who might have it better than you.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            Bring the truth, S2k.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            Amen.

          • 0 avatar
            xtoyota

            WELL SAID

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            Except underpaid isn’t a market condition and any rational actor who understood economics would laugh you off the street. Please tell me you have a degree in something besides Economics because you’re possibly one of the dumbest people to open their mouth on the matter. Your basic argument is involuntary unemployment, Keynes dealt with this argument 85 years ago and economists recognize it as a natural part of the market.

            In other words: If you’re making $15/hour and the cost of living is $20/hour you’re underpaid. It doesn’t matter if the industry collectively acts to limit that value or it is due to overpopulation or underproduction or overproduction. The point of the matter is that we’re so far past the point of necessary labor to run the economy that your entire premise is hollow. The argument that the ‘market sets the wages’ is wholly and utterly false, collective actions by corporations set the prevailing wages unless intervened by collective bargaining or state control. Now the premise in your statement is that if Joe Blow quits and Joey Blow is willing to work for $10/hour that’s good capitalism but then the issue remains, how is Joey going to survive if the cost of living is $20/hour?

            The short answer is we’ll subsidize his living through government largesse, much like we do for Wal-Mart and scores of other low-wage employees. The long answer is we’ll face forceful responses as the standard of living decreases dramatically for enough citizens to make it a feasible answer to retake society. In the long answer what will happen is further economic left-wing parties will emerge or take over existing models and issue state-sponsored correction. A far less chance is actual violent revolution, but it’s happened before.

            So before you try and dictate any understanding of Economics again, you better go find a damn textbook because what you spewed is moral economic garbage that even monetarists are hesitant to actually try and defend.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            “Put down the class warfare angry Wall Street hatred BS, and tell me the flaw in the above narrative. You can’t, because you’re too busy being angry at some stockbroker somewhere who might have it better than you.”

            I defer to a man both wiser and wealther than myself, noted stock market investor Warren Buffett: “‘There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

            The “flaw in the above narrative”? I think I pointed that out in my first post. You subscribe to the American religion of rugged individualism in blaming any citizen who can’t find an adequate-paying job, yet dismiss the problem that the jobs don’t exist?

            When I read incoherent rants like this, I always wonder which of the only two possible motivations drives it: actual belief that billionaires will love you for promoting their party line the same way the house slaves diss the field slaves, or simply that a Koch Brothers front group spiffs you 10 bucks every time you troll a message board to trash unionism. Or, come to think of it, both.

            P.S. I am neither poor nor a union member (though I’d be proud to be the latter were I in an applicable field). Wait a few years and that could change, though, for all of us. A falling tide sinks all boats — and pride goeth before the fall, dude.

        • 0 avatar
          jetcal1

          Hello TCD,
          Sure, I can appreciate your anger. But, since most problems are caused by multiple factors, let me ask you,
          Do you shop price?
          Do buy the least expensive airline tickets?
          Do you own a IRA or a 401k?
          If you have answered yes to any of these, you contributed to the problem.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Jetcal, that’s a rational criticism. And the answer is, I’m an imperfect and sometimes selfish human who does those things.

            That’s exactly why our imperial class’s successful drive to turn all our incomes and economic leverage into an international race to the bottom can only be stopped in one way: the same way it was prevented from starting for nearly 200 years until 1980. It’s the one dirty word that always makes the likes of s2k Chris spontaneously bust a blood vessel: tariffs.

            They work.

            Without them, without taxation that rewards investment in this country and penalizes bleeding it, and without the meaningful enforcement of antitrust laws the US used to have, the magical “hidden hand” of unfettered capitalism is gradually squashing literally 99% of this nation’s citizens. And those who dismiss that specific number as left-wing ranting are trying to duck an easily demonstrable fact through an argument no more intellectually credible than schoolyard name-calling.

      • 0 avatar
        challenger2012

        Economics. It works, bitches. Oh how quaint! Except it is not as simple as you state. You should watch Frontline’s “To Catch a Trader” and see how business really works, i.e. insider trading, frequency trading, bribery, selling of access and information, tips from inside companies to investment firms to make millions while everyone on the outside loses. All this is part of the Economics you praise. After seeing this 1 hour investigation, you might not be cheering so loud.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          There is no alternative that is not worse.

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          Sigh. I’ve not “praised” anything. I’ve basically told you that if you throw a ball in the air gravity will bring it back down, and in response you ranted about some documentary you barely comprehended once about the moon landing was a fake and who knows if there’s gravity on the moon?!?!?

          BTW, I’ve been involved in F100 M&A for ten years now. But you’re right, haven’t seen that Frontline special….

        • 0 avatar
          jetcal1

          Challenger,
          It has become very bad there as well. Certainly a major contributor to the collapse 6 years ago. All I can suggest is find one of the good players. They are out there.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My father was forced to join the United Steel Workers in the late 60s, working as a machinist at US Steel’s Homestead Steel Works.

      For the next 15 years, I grew up listening to the union bosses shooting their mouths off on TV about the bad deal they were getting from the steel companies.

      He was well-paid, and did finally receive the mythical 13-week vacation (IIRC). Shortly after that, he received a permanent vacation and HSW became Sandcastle Amusement Park.

      So after muddling through several years of under-employment, at the age of 50 he had to retrain himself and start a new career as a tech writer. To his credit, many of the other guys his age couldn’t cope and move on.

      He predicted the demise of his Steel job, and would gladly have exchanged union dues and abnormal pay for steady, undramatic employment.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

    So if “Dave’s Angels” decided to hang a shingle in offering to represent the VW workers, they could? Or is VW a closed shop already?

  • avatar
    pdieten

    Somebody explain this sentence to me:

    “VW’s supervisory board, where labor organizations have a say in matters, does not want Chattanooga to get the new crossover without some kind of arrangement regarding organization of the plant’s labor”

    Am I reading this wrong, because this reads to me that VW’s board expects Chattanooga to have a union. And if that’s the case, then whom exactly are the anti-union groups fighting for?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      The anti-union groups are fighting unionization of VW because they fear contagion to other Tennessee factory. I’ll let you guess which political party is driving the anti-union campaign, but essentially the governor threatened to deny tax preferences to VW for expanding the plant if it allowed its workers to unionize.

      Who are the anti-union groups fighting for? Well, names like Rove, Koch, Pickens and Adelson pop up frequently.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      VW wants a workers’ council. Workers’ councils are not legal in the US. I think VW is trying to sidestep the prohibition, in concert with the UAW so as to have the imprimatur of a ‘union’ on their council.

      Workers’ councils work well in Germany. Perhaps a change to US law is in order.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Good point. Between all of the hoopla and debate, it would probably be cheaper and easier for VAG to lobby Congress to change the law.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        You do understand a worker’s council in the German form is far more left than our current organized labor format, right? The desperation of the right to stop the UAW would triple if the German Worker Councils were legal.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Xeranar,
          They are more integral to the overall production process than the UAW . Left? No, they act like another seat on the Board

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            I don’t think you understand the meaning of ‘left’ in economics. But I’ll try to keep it simple: The labor unions are asking for better working conditions, benefits, and wages. Whether they have a seat on the board or operate as an independent bargaining unit is really a matter of administration. It’s far easier to make the board come to a conclusion when you hold seats on it since you only need to convince a majority of them to help you and if you control 20-30% of the board already you’ve got an easier time getting conciliation.

            In an independent bargaining unit structure the board has zero incentive to aid their workers except with logical and rational understandings of long-term business strategies, something that board members rarely care or seek out because their goal is to maximize profit today. The basic premise is that because Labor has only two options: Collective bargaining and striking they need to weight those options based on critical outcomes. The board by contrast needs only worry about striking which would shutter facilities.

            Thus by owning a few seats on the board labor is in a much easier position to execute their actions and provide better conditions for the workers by also working with the corporation to find a compromise position. By definition, labor and labor unions are left-wing organizations (regardless of the internal strife of ‘conservative vs. liberal’ labeling). The German labor movement is farther left than our own and have been successful for decades by using that power to help their workers.

  • avatar
    slawinlaw

    The workers who don’t want to be represented by the UAW,consumers who want to buy non-union products and other existing and future employers who don’t want union shops.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Are there really consumers who want to buy non-union products, and go out of their way to do so? I know the opposite is true, that some folks specifically shop for union products.

      I’m no fan of unions, but I don’t really care if the people who built my car are unionized or not.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Consumers who want to buy non-union products???

      Good luck with that. Unions are far more prevalent in other parts of the world.

      That JDM Toyota and Honda people love to praise – union.

      Korean cars and products – union.

      Heck many factories and shops in China are union, and have way more power than US unions could have ever dreamed of at their peak.

      Never mind European countries.

      Then you have the proliferation of parts sharing across almost all of the manufacturing around the world – there is likely some union parts or materials somewhere.

      Of course I hear Bangladesh sweat shops aren’t union – so you have a fair number of cheap clothing choices.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Me and my extended family haven’t touched anything UAW made since the early 1970s. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

    The UAW exists for the UAW, not for the worker. They’re parasitic, and will kill their host.

    There are plenty of well-made American cars and trucks available without having to feed the monster.

    • 0 avatar
      challenger2012

      What has the UAW have to do with you buying a vehicle? Shouldn’t your concern be if the vehicle is a quality well built?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        By the same logic, shouldn’t a person be concerned with the trade deficit and sending more profit overseas?

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Not really. The brands I’ve bought are supporting America-based designers and R & D centers, as well as assemblers, sales and finance folks, and mechanics.

          I’m doing my share, no?

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Yes; that’s always priority #1 after safety. There are plenty of very well NA made non-UAW vehicles from which to choose. I just won’t support their economic model.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      So you just like the Saab emblem? It’s made by IF Metall and they’re an associated union with the UAW & AFL-CIO. I’m not sure what your argument is except that you dislike one union because they’re a union while the other automaker unions do the exact same thing, in fact they’re better at their job because in most of those countries the political parties aren’t openly hostile to their agenda.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        Except the British were under Margaret Thatcher and we know what the final outcome was for the then British Automobile Industry

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          You followed me down the thread only to get told how wrong you are….I’m not sure what more there is to say. Thatcher was openly hostile to labor unions during her time, Britain like the US has a party openly hostile to labor unions. What do you want to describe for you? Japan & South Korea are built differently and have strong labor unions with their more conservative parties still not anti-union.

          But thanks for playing the game. I give you a 3 out of 5 for attempting to troll. I got a laugh but it wasn’t like you had a good solid argument except the old drawn out arguments rehashed a million times by conservatives who desperately want to latch onto something of substance even as economic report after economic report blows their views to pieces.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        While I can’t find verification, I’ll believe you that IF Metall represented the Graz plant where my SAAB was made (the Graz plant was closed due to…gulp…high labor costs).

        If I had found any evidence of long-term purposeful sabotage and slothful work habits I would have not bought the SAAB. It’s an exceedingly well made car; just tempermental like all four of my European cars have been.

        I’m not anti-union. I’m anti-UAW. I believe VW should have a works council….just not the UAW.

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          Funny how you’re quick to try and find ‘sabotage’ and ‘slothful work habits’ i.e. unfounded assumptions or presumptuous cases so rare they mind as well be considered irrelevant. But don’t let that ‘temperamental car’ get in the way of your moral argument of irrelevance.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          >>shrugs<< America, six times more productive when it comes to manufacturing big ticket items like cars, trains, planes et al than the rest of the world.

          Not really seeing how our manufacturing sector is "slothful"?


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