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Volkswagen and Labor Might Start a Revolution in Dixie

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- As a union-side lawyer, I know many write off the labor movement as lost. But maybe globalization will save us. Consider how the United Auto Workers has come so close to organizing the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The UAW may not win immediately, yet something earth-shaking has already happened: a U.S. union opting to push a German company to bring its own model over here.

If that transplant works, then globalization really might save the U.S. labor movement. As pointed out by Harvard University’s Richard Freeman, a leading labor economist, the workplace in countries such as Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, and especially that uber-competitor, Germany, has remained relatively egalitarian. Just count the spread of “works councils” in most of these countries, where workers look through company books and influence decisions.