Workers of the South, unite:

The workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga voted 712-626 to stay out of the union after a lobbying fight in which Republican politicians warned unionization could lead Volkswagen and automobile companies to leave the state.

Union officials…blamed politicians who had warned workers that by joining they union, they could hurt their own economic interests.

…UAW officials vowed they would not give up in their effort to organize workers in the South, a region that historically has been much more difficult to unionize.

Give up? Never. They are patient.

“While we’re outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union, we’re proud that these workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from outside,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams. “We hope this will start a larger discussion about workers’ right to organize.”

The article goes on to add that the UAW president said the union is contemplating legal action about this “interference.” So, who “interfered,” and exactly how? Is telling workers that unions might function in a way that runs counter to workers’ interests “interfering” with the union’s own campaign to woo them?

Further research on this question came up with this:

UAW President Bob King sharply criticized Tennessee politicians who he said scared workers away from voting in favor of union representation.

How did these scare tactics occur? This is the best I’ve been able to do so far in terms of locating the specifics:

Tennessee Republican leaders suggested that the union might limit chances for a plant expansion and make the GOP-controlled Legislature less willing to help the German auto maker expand…

More here about what those Republican leaders said. Apparently the governor said something about the likelihood that if the plant didn’t unionize, an SUV-line might be brought in. I can’t seem to find any actual quotes, though, either from the governor or those other Republicans, so it’s hard to evaluate what’s true. The quote from Senator Corker, however, appears to be this one:

Corker, a Tennessee Republican who helped negotiate the incentives package to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga, said he has talked to VW leaders numerous times and “there’s not a push by the executive leadership or the board toward the UAW.”

“I know for a fact that at the highest levels of VW, they’re aware that if the UAW became involved in the plant, it would be a negative for the future economic growth of our state,” he said.

So Senator Corker’s telling people about the economic effects on the state of Tennessee’s reputation as a place that doesn’t encourage unions is scare tactics, I guess. At least, according to the unions.

Some of the union’s angst – and another significant part of the back story – seems to be the fact that “a majority of workers at the Chattanooga plant [had] signed cards supporting being represented by the union in a European-style works council.” Apparently that led union leaders to believe they had this in the bag. Funny thing, though, a secret ballot is different than signing a card – remember card check, one of Obama’s original goals?

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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