UAW Backpedals On Chattanooga: "No Official Organizing Campaign" At Volkswagen

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
uaw backpedals on chattanooga no official organizing campaign at volkswagen

A while ago, the UAW started passing out signature cards at Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, TN. It looks like most landed in the garbage can.

The UAW needs signatures from at least 30 percent of the workers before a representation election can go ahead. There is no information on how many (or how few) signatures the UAW received. However, Gary Casteel, director of the UAW’s District 8 says now that the UAW wasn’t serious. Casteel told The Tennessean:

“We have not started an official organizing campaign. What got some people up in arms is that we passed out some cards, but they were never about setting up an election. The cards were just gauging the level of support.”

The paper sees older workers at the Volkswagen plant as more supportive of the union than younger employees are. Says the Chattanooga paper:

“Some younger workers fear they could lose some of their current benefits if the union negotiates a contract with Volkswagen.”

Chances are pretty rotten for a union if workers fear that they get less after they sign. The workforce appeared pretty youthful when we had visited the plant last year.

The comments to the article in the Tennessean reflect the cautious mood in Chattanooga. “The UAW will only protect the drunks, drug addicted, lazy, thieves and those who are chronically absent,” says a Dennis Tucker. “Don’t do it. The UAW is a bunch of self-serving thugs and will be bad for the employees,” a Ron Brown asks.

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12 of 23 comments
  • Vww12 Vww12 on Apr 02, 2012

    If VW infects the South by becoming the first union car plant here, I'll never buy another VW. VW fan here; own a V8 and a W12. I don't care if my VWs were built by union workers in Europe; VW and its unions are welcome to wreck their own economies over there. Just don't come and screw up ours.

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    • Modelt1918 Modelt1918 on Apr 02, 2012

      @PintoFan Have you ever been to Germany, Pintoboy? The lifestyle isn't anything you would find here.Unions were good in the day but, they have gone too far and they are all passe' now.

  • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Apr 02, 2012

    It's not as if autoworkers in the US are underpaid, abused or forced to work in unsafe environments! With all the regulation and mandates laid down by the federal government there is very little that any union can do for its members. If the UAW had set a better precedent prior to 2009, maybe two of its employers would not have had to declare bankruptcy. As it is, that stigma will hang over the prospect of unionizing or organizing any non-union shop well into the distant future. Why unionize and have the union collectively bargain you out of your job and force your employer to declare bankruptcy? That's biting the hand that feeds you.

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    • Toxicroach Toxicroach on Apr 03, 2012

      @car_guy2010 I've read that GM had $2000 in extra labor/benefits costs per car over their competitors. Let's use that for this example. Imagine that both GM and Honda have the Civic. It's exactly the same car in every way; equally attractive, equally reliable etc. Honda sells this car for 19K and makes 1 thousand per car. GM has to sell the car at 21K to make the same amount of money as Honda. It has to charge 20k to break even, and lose 1 grand to price match Honda. So, GM can't sell this car because it costs too much. Can't cut labor costs, so the parts have to go. They trim 2 grand from the material cost of the car. Now they can price the car competitively! But the car is substantially worse. Who wants a car that is substantially less reliable or less appealing for the same amount of money? No one. So they have to cut more off the materials. Say 5 grand. Now they can charge 16 thousand for it, but jesus mary, it's a stinker. But by the time they clear 1 grand from the car, it's still only three grand less than a car that is way, way better now. That's not a lot of daylight, and sales suffer. GM can't just stop making the thing because then CAFE bites them in the ass. They NEED to sell a ton of these crappy cars. So you cut more. And more. And that's how you get the Aveo and the Cavalier and the Cobalt. The unions helped a lot in forcing GM to make shitty small cars, which ruined their brand reputations and contributed to the endless market share erosion. It's not all the UAW's fault, but certainly they did their fair share in ensuring GM's collapse.

  • Bryanska Bryanska on Apr 03, 2012

    In "The Machine That Changed the World" the authors show how unions retard quality initiatives by protecting the craftsman mentality. Kaizen and continuous improvement efforts are hampered if companies can't constantly re-engineer the lines and re-define jobs. Unions inherently drag this process. In the 70s and 80s, this is what kept quality down in European manufacturers. Workers did not accept changes to their duties. These craftsmen did too much work at their stations. Measurement was very difficult, and if you can't mesaure you can't manage. These days, continuous improvement is the last hope for labor in high-cost countries. If the managers can't ride the learning curve and constantly adjust, then efficiencies can't be gained. The reason why VW and other European cars were always such poor quality vs. the Japanese is fully explained in the book. It's an older book, but the images of giant "rework floors" where newly finished cars have their build issues reworked are very vivid. Best book on the auto industry, as far as I'm concerned.