Tennessee Union Loss Is Autoworkers' Gain
In the days since workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, rejected a proposal to unionize, the United Auto Workers has worked overtime to spin the loss: this was all part of a right-wing movement to destroy worker representation, union supporters say,and the vote was manipulated by local and state politicians who had no business involving themselves in a business matter.
Yet this narrative falls apart under scrutiny. The Chattanooga rejection of the UAW was exactly that: the rejection of a single union that failed to make a persuasive case to the Tennessee workers and, despite profiting immensely from the federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, is in dire straits after deciding to reward longtime members at the expense of new backers. In fact, the 712-626 vote can be seen as showing solid support for worker representation and for a German-style "works council" that VW management, too, backs. Rather, what what shot down was mandatory unionization as a prerequisite for those works councils -- something the UAW insists is required under the federal labor law.
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