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UAW's Devastating Defeat in Tennessee: Four Blunt Points

Workers on the production line at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Workers on the production line at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, TennesseePhotograph by Mark Elias/Bloomberg

As if anyone needed more evidence of the union movement’s demise, a United Auto Workers defeat Friday in Tennessee illustrated organized labor’s profound weakness in America. Employees at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga rejected UAW membership by a vote of 712-626. Consider these four blunt points:

1. If the UAW couldn’t win this one, what can they win? Volkswagen didn’t even oppose unionization. The German carmaker likes to sponsor cooperative worker-management councils at its factories, and formal UAW participation could have facilitated that arrangement. Still, a majority of employees said they didn’t want the UAW representing them. The defeat creates an enormous obstacle to labor’s ambition to organize at other foreign-owned auto plants in the South.