Volkswagen Chattanooga: German Unions Damn UAW Drive With Faint Support

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
volkswagen chattanooga german unions damn uaw drive with faint support

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.

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  • TomLU86 TomLU86 on May 25, 2012

    It seems to me IG Metall is looking out for the rank and file---of IG Metall in Germany. VW can't compete with Camrys, Hyundais, and even Malibus with German-made VWs. But, with US-made cars, they can make potentially made money. Having UAW represented workers will not make VW of A more profitable, and could cause problems. Hence IG Metall's "non-endorsement". Since IG Metall won't get the work anyway, why not help the parent company make a profit? This will help IG Metall when it's time to negotiated in Deutschland. And Audis will still come for Germany. IG Metall should be more worried that I won't be buying any US-made VWs. Not because the workers aren't union, or the workers are being abused--but because the cars are boring and too "Americanized". History repeats itself sometimes...VW "Malubized" the Rabbit in the early 80s and never recoverd. Once they get their initial sales 'boost' coasting on the "German engineering" thing, the "Accord/Fusion/Camryziation" of Passat and Jettas will hurt VW--more than the UAW ever could.

    • Pja48142 Pja48142 on May 25, 2012

      "And Audis will still come for Germany." I assume you mean FROM Germany. True, until the plant in Mexico opens....

  • Glenroebuck Glenroebuck on Jun 03, 2012

    You do know the average wage of a Mexican auto worker is $4.50 an hour right? Even less at some Ford plants where the Mexican auto workers union agreed to cut starting wages to $1.50 to stop Ford from sending the fiesta builds to China where their average auto worker makes $2 to $6 dollars an hour. Add to that little to no pension and health care costs for workers. Is it good business or slave labor? How exactly does the US worker compete with a wage so low it is lower than what we pay high school kids to flip burgers? Back in the hey day of the big three - paying good union wages, pensions and health care did not stop them from making record profits. Their lack of innovation did them in when Japan showed up in the first gas crisis. Slow to react they never fully recovered. The average Japanese auto worker makes $26 dollars an hour plus retirement and benefits. Shipping work off to Mexico or china is not a UAW fault. If you are a bottom line man it makes sense pay a guy 1.50 an hour or 15 an hours plus health care and retirement? But then no one mentions that both China and Mexico have national health care, cheap pharmaceuticals, and a tradition of taking care of their elderly. These are companies supported and propped up by American people. The new GM/UAW contract kills the infamous job bank, encourages 10K underutilized skilled trades to retire and sets a starting wage for new hires at 17 an hour. Even with all those concessions how do you compete with 1.50 an hour?

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...