By on October 11, 2013

Volkswagen SUV-Studie CrossBlue Coup

More drama in the ongoing Volkswagen unionization fight in Chattanooga: Volkswagen USA is not keen on the union, while Volkswagen’s management board is divided on the matter. One thing that seems certain is the prospect of a secret ballot vote on the union, according to Reuters.

TTAC readers are familiar by now with the drama over organization drives, union cards, and the like. But the report by Ben Klayman and Bernie Woodall (to veteran reporters with solid contacts at VW) is the first look at VW’s mindset, and the differing opinions both in the USA and Germany. Per Woodall and Klayman

While VW’s U.S. executives are hostile to the United Auto Workers, the eight-member management board may still ask the union to help set up a German-style employee board at the Chattanooga plant, said the person, who asked not to be identified.

The top executives feel that any final decision must be approved by the workers in a secret ballot to protect VW’s reputation and assuage investors and U.S. politicians, said the source, who did not identify the VW executives.

Beyond the weighty issue of union organization by the UAW at a foreign plant in the south is whether Chattanooga will get additional product. VW dealers are hungry for a crossover to take on vehicles like the Chevrolet Traverse and Honda Pilot, and Chattanooga is a proposed location for the car. But the vehicle (based on the CrossBlue concept, above) has become the center of a game of tug-of-war for both pro and anti union camps, who variously want to see the car built there or in Mexico for a whole host of reasons, including punishing Chattanooga for not recognizing the UAW (or alternately, rewarding it for doing so) or taking advantage of the cost savings and building it in Mexico, while conveniently skirting the UAW issue at the same time.

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24 Comments on “Volkswagen USA Doesn’t Want A Union, But Workers Will Get The Final Say...”

  • avatar

    Let them have their secret ballot and let the workers decided whether they want UAW representation or not. Besides, who says it has to be the United Auto Workers who represents them. I wouldn’t want union representation, and I certainly wouldn’t want UAW representation, both because of the reputation of that union and what I perceive as a conflict of interest, since the UAW I believe still has an ownership stake in at least Chrysler, if not Chrysler and GM.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s nothing really wrong with a union having a stake in the companies it’s members work at; it’s fairly common outside North America.

      It’s also not uncommon to have theoretical conflicts of interest at the director or shareholder level: if it was, the amount of corporate interlock among boards of directors would be an insurmountable problem.

      But otherwise, yes, I agree with you. The labour force can and should be allowed to vote, and yes, they could choose the union they’d like to represent them. There’s no reason they couldn’t, eg, try to engage the Teamsters or even IG Metall as opposed to the UAW.

      • 0 avatar

        They could even start a new union rather than joining a national one …

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed, and if I’m a union GM or Chrysler employee I’m probably happy that my union has a state, as it is one of the things that kept the lights on and food on my table. I might also feel a heretofore missing feeling of ownership and responsiblity for the work I do.

        Where I see the potential conflict of intrest is at UAW shops such as Ford, where the union does not have an ownership in the company. Is the union working in my best interest, or is it working in the interest of its ownership stake in those other companies. The horse is already out of the barn at Ford at least, but if I’m at VW, perhaps I don’t want to bring in that potential conflict of interest.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        psar – Nice to see you here again!

    • 0 avatar

      “assuage politicians”

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if VW move the plant out of the US because its to difficult to decide if unions are viable or not.

    I don’t see how this is an issue, if you want to be a union man, be one. If you don’t, then don’t. But if the non union guys signs a contract to do overtime cheaper, then he should get the overtime.

    If the problem continues and VW move production to Mexico who will be to blame?

    I wouldn’t be the unions fault, would it.

    • 0 avatar

      @BAFO….In order for “your” suggestion to work you would need to understand the labour laws of Tennessee and the U.S.A.

      I’m from Canada, and not familiar with U.S. labour practices.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        I’m not stating law, it’s a suggestion. It’s funny when something is suggested that is competitive against the UAW you pipe up with laws and crap to protect the uncompetitive.

        So, the UAW is scared of a competitive labour market.

      • 0 avatar

        Tennessee is a “right to work state”, which means that unionized companies are “open shops” — the workers don’t have to join if they choose not to.

    • 0 avatar

      Overtime is a matter of law, not contract.

      It would be ridiculous to move a plant because “its [sic] difficult to decide if unions are viable.” Rather, they would move the plant if the union situation becomes sufficiently burdensome (e.g., productivity suffers, costs rise, or the products they are allowed to manufacture are choked off) that it’s no longer competitive to do business there.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        I think here in Australia we can be employed under a contract if you want. This can include areas of overtime, working weekends etc.

        This is really flexible because there are many who would want to work at night or weekends, etc.

        A friend of mine his wife is a nurse and she wants to work on weekends so he can look after the kids. Having open contracts allow the ease of this to occur. She’s prepared to work for ‘normal’ wages on weekends.

        I think unions have to realise life has changed in many homes and their antiquated views on labour should be addressed.

        In Australia it’s illegal nationally to have any union controlled workplace. If I don’t want to be a unionist/socialist I don’t have to like religion.

        I want to be a Jedi and not a Mormon. It’s as believable as each other.

        Unions are like any other group, they started out with good intentions and now they seemed more concerned about the union/socialist institution than the worker. That’s one of the big reasons Detroit failed.

  • avatar

    Yes a secret ballot. We in Canada use an outside agency to do the counting. It keeps both sides honest, and the outcome is never disputed.

    Just to set the record straight it the VEBA trust fund that owns a piece of GM and Chrysler. VEBA covers the cost of retiree benefits. The fund was created, to eliminate some of the huge GM, Chrysler and Ford “legacy” costs

    As has been reported here at TTAC. When VEBA was created GM and Chrysler offered a piece of the company,in lieu of cash.

    At this time the, trustees at VEBA would vey much like to unload their share of both companys.

  • avatar

    Unions have nothing to do with Detroit’s troubles. Labor has very little to do with the price of a car, let alone the designs and mergers. It wasn’t the UAW that designed the Vega or the Citation. The UAW had nothing to do with the failure of Ford’s “Premium Luxury Group” or Explorers rolling over. It wasn’t the UAW behind the disastrous merger of equals”oft Chrysler and Daimler. In fact, the UAW did much to help the Saturn and Neon projects.

    It’s easy to regurgitate rightwing talking points but they really have no basis in reality. Much of this anti-UAW sentiment is simply disguised racism. Remember that MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech was first given at Detroit’s Cobo Hall at a joint NAACP/UAW rally.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    You Say;
    Unions have nothing to do with Detroit’s troubles. Labor has very little to do with the price of a car, let alone the designs and mergers.

    I Say;
    Well you had better see how the auto industry in Australia is not viable because of high wages.

    Have a look at how the UAW support(ed) all of the uncompetitive work practices, tariffs, regulations, etc.

    The UAW is as bad a the Big 3 managers for accepting the UAW mismanagement and poor decisions. On decision making I give the UAW a 2 out of 10.

    I suppose reality and accepting accountability isn’t a strong point for a unionist, it’s always someone else’s fault.

    • 0 avatar

      Big Al, be honest: it’s more than high wages that have killed off auto assembly in Oz. The high value of the AUD and carbon taxes helped contribute to the shrinking of the industry, wouldn’t you say? Then there’s the high cost of fuel reducing demand for larger, six and eight cylinder cars, and the influx of Japanese economy models grabbing market share too, no? The Australian car industry has been laid low by what economists call “an unfortunate confluence of events”, not just high wages.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        High AUD value equates to high wages.

        As for the price of cars yes fuel does play a role, but as a percentage of our wages we pay the same as a Canadian for fuel.

        The biggest killer of the Australian auto industry is the cost of labour.

        Korea can knock up a Cruze for half the price we can, and guess what, the cost of commodities are the same between the countries.

        Canada is going to face a similar problem with the higher labour costs.

        Unionist will have you believe only half of what it actually costs for labour. Do you factor in the retirement, insurance, restrictive work practices, etc.

        Have a look at all high wage countries and look at the manufacturing sector. Any high labour cost country is seeing a decline in manufacturing. Why? Because of cheap labour?

        Higher wages kill jobs. China?

        • 0 avatar

          @BAFO – I’m sure OZ tariffs, at one point 60% (not too long ago), had nothing to do with a once vibrant Aussie auto industry. Our El Caminos, Rancheros and Falcons would have lived a lot longer with that kind of protection and isolation. Aussie cars were (and are) noncompetitive with what’s imported. When cars sales become weak, the excuses about high wages or high dollars become STRONG.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Again, WTF?

            Is your comment in the correct article or maybe you are confused between TTAC and another site.

          • 0 avatar

            @BAFO – What? You can dish it out but you can’t take it? SHOCKING…

            You may be a Rocket Scientist as you claim, but you have a child’s mind.

          • 0 avatar

            @BAFO – I’ve coined a term for the Aussie auto industry/market. I call it the “Galapagos Effect”. Charles Darwin had it correct.

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