A Sad Day For American Solidarity

I may hate the CWA and SOME OTHER UNIONS for their expressions of CORPORATE UNIONISM and SCREWING ME and a bunch of other AT&T technicians ten years ago, but I strongly SUPPORT the NEED FOR UNIONS and solidarity.

So, why did the VW autoworkers In Tennessee just vote down the UAW?

I think their reasons are a little different than mine.

Here’s a HINT:

Sen. Bob Corker (R-What Else?) told workers “I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga.”

The pervasiveness of a fearing, fragmented, selfish society is driving even into the shared interests of working class Americans to the ground.

Even the owners want a union.

Detriot Free Press TELLS US:

Volkswagen has said it favors the creation of a German-style works council, which gives workers a voice on a variety of product and other decisions. Under U.S. law, a union must represent employees for a company to form a works council.

“VW has shown that they can have a great relationship with unions. They do it all over the world,”

One leader of the Republican-controlled Tennessee state Senate threatened this week to block any incentives for future Volkswagen investment in Chattanooga if a majority of workers voted for the union.

Robert Reich REMINDS US:

the community was solidly behind us - that is, until Bridgestone-Firestone threatened to close the plant if we didn’t back down.

A smaller share of working-age Americans hold jobs today than at any time in more than three decades.

People are so desperate for jobs they don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want rules and regulations enforced that might cost them their livelihoods. For them, a job is precious sometimes even more precious than a safe workplace or safe drinking water.

The best bulwark against corporate irresponsibility is a strong and growing middle class. But in order to summon the political will to achieve it, we have to overcome the timidity that flows from economic desperation.

This is especially true in poorer regions of the country like West Virginia and through much of the South and rural America - so-called “red states” where the old working class has been voting Republican. Guns, abortion, and race are part of the explanation. But don’t overlook economic anxieties that translate into a willingness to vote for whatever it is that industry wants.

This may explain why Republican officials who have been casting their votes against unions, against expanding Medicaid, against raising the minimum wage, against extended unemployment insurance, and against jobs bills that would put people to work, continue to be elected and re-elected.

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UAW’s Critical Southern Drive Falters After Historic Vote At VW Plant In Tennessee

By Dan Bigman
Forbes
February 15, 2014

The United Auto Workers suffered their most CRUSHING defeat in a generation Friday night when workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voted against unionizing their shop. The vote was seen as a critical test of the UAWs ability to organize in the South, which is fast becoming America’s new manufacturing center of gravity.

Employees rejected the UAW 712 to 626, the culmination of a months-long battle that pit the union against local politicians, including Governor Bill Haslam and the states Republican legislature, who feared that unionization threatened Tennessee’s ability to compete for business against rival states.

But with the Volkswagen plant, based in Chattanooga, the union saw an opening in the traditional anti-union bastion of the south. VW works hand-in-hand with labor in plants worldwide through works councils in which management and workers both participate in setting policy for running the factories. VW was hoping to create a similar arrangement in Tennessee, and, while not backing the unionization drive, did not stand in its way, either. The company had urged third parties not to interfere with the vote.

Nonetheless, workers seemed to feel they didn’t need the UAW, and many told reporters present at the vote that they blamed the collapse of Detroit’s automakers on the predominance of the union there.

It was a particularly stinging defeat for UAW president Bob King, who has been focused on the South as they lynchpin of future union growth thanks to a boom in auto manufacturing there. Since the late 1970s, UAW membership has been more than cut in half to under 400,000 members as U.S. automakers reeled.

Meanwhile, a host of foreign automakers from VW to Daimler to Toyota and Hyundai have set up shop in the largely anti-union South, with brand new facilities, some of which are among the most advanced factories in the world, leading a to renaissance in the U.S. auto industryand capturing 30% of all U.S. auto sales. Competitive labor costs, access to capital and a host of incentives from Southern states eager to attract manufacturing have fueled the boom.

To keep the union relevant long-term, the UAW needs to make inroads into these plants, and the VW vote was critical to that effort. דWere obviously deeply disappointed,Ҕ King told reporters at a news conference after the vote.

Local officials, who fought the vote, had a different take, obviously. Needless to say, I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future,Ӕ said U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga who helped attract the $1 billion plant to his town the first place.

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UAW rejected in organizing vote at VW plant in Tenn.
2-year old bid falls short by 87 votes

By Gabe Nelson
Automotive News
February 14, 2014

Workers at Volkswagen AG’s plant here voted to reject UAW representation, dealing a devastating loss to a union that saw the Tennessee factory as its best chance to gain a toehold at a foreign-owned assembly plant in the South.

Results of the vote—712 opposed to the UAW and 626 in favor—were released late Friday by retired Tennessee Circuit Court Judge Sam Payne after three days of voting at the plant, where the company builds the Passat sedan.

Volkswagen said 89 percent of approximately 1,500 workers eligible to vote participated in the election.

“While we certainly would have liked a victory for workers here, we deeply respect the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall for doing their best to create a free and open atmosphere for workers to exercise their basic human right to form a union,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement.

The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the voting, must still certify the results.

Volkswagen did not resist the two-year organizing drive, which made it unusually easy for the UAW to win workers’ support for a vote.

Still, the election attracted widespread national attention from third-party union supporters and opponents, and they spent the past few weeks trying to sway the outcome with billboards, radio spots and other messages.

Some elected officials in Tennessee opposed to the unionization drive also worried that a UAW win would undermine the state’s ability to attract future private investment and jobs. In some cases, they threatened to withhold future incentives for VW if the union was successful.

UAW leaders said they appear to have lost some of their support this week when some Republican leaders in the state suggested a union victory might hurt chances for an expansion at the plant.

“We started to see some movement when the governor made his comments [indicating the union could hurt economic development],” Dennis Williams, secretary treasurer for the UAW, said after the vote. “Then Sen. (Bob) Corker who said he was not going to get involved came back [to Chattanooga] and had a press conference. We had a feeling that something was happening.”

Outraged

Williams and other UAW leaders were outraged that politicians and outside special interest groups “interfered 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,” Williams, who directs the union’s transnational program, said. “We hope this will start a larger discussion about workers’ right to organize.”

King told reporters after the results were released that the union will decide in the next few days whether to appeal the vote on grounds it was influenced by outside parties.

“What I hope the American public understands is that those people who attacked us were attacking labor-management cooperation. They don’t believe in workers and management working together. We believe in that. And we believe the workers here will ultimately prevail,” King said.

“It’s never happened in this country before that a U.S. senator, a governor, a leader of the House, a leader of the Legislature here, would threaten the company with no incentives, threaten workers with a loss of product. We think that’s outrageous,” King added. “We’ll look at all of our options in the next few days.”

Some workers who voted no also cited the two-tier wage contracts at Detroit 3 factories and noted that some VW workers in Chattanooga make more than new U.S. hires at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler plants.

Other workers singled out a clause in a UAW-VW neutrality agreement signed in January as part of the organizing drive. In the event of a union win, the clause called for “maintaining and where possible enhancing the cost advantages and other competitive advantages that [VW Chattanooga] enjoys relative to its competitors in the United States and North America.”

For some employees, that meant wages and benefits could be prevented from getting too high compared to other U.S. auto plants, including those operated by the unionized Detroit 3.

“The difference in the vote ... was people hunting down the information to make an intelligence decision, not just listening to your buddy,” King said. “Of course, if you don’t win, you review your strategy.”

Long odds grow

The UAW, whose membership has dwindled from 1.5 million in 1979 to about 400,000 today, now faces even longer odds in its decades-long quest to organize workers at auto factories that foreign companies including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have opened across the South since the 1980s.

If results of the vote withstand legal challenges, the outcome also will diminish the legacy of King, who took the union’s helm in 2010, a year after General Motors and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy.

King vowed to ingrain the union with a more collaborative culture than the one that he conceded had played a role in the Detroit auto industry’s decline.

A key test of that vow was the union’s ability to branch out from GM, Ford and Chrysler factories—a traditional stronghold—and recruit workers at plants operated by foreign automakers such as VW, the world’s second-largest automaker after Toyota.

In the months before the vote, King personally made inroads with labor leaders in Germany and reached an accord with top Volkswagen AG officials under which the UAW agreed to help form a “works council” at the Chattanooga factory.

The council, a collaboration between management and workers, would have been similar to ones at other VW plants worldwide.

UAW organizers on the ground here went into the election confident after securing signed union cards of support from a majority of the Chattanooga plant’s workers.

But when workers cast their secret ballots, a slight majority—53 percent of those voting—decided to keep the plant running as it does now, without the UAW.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, which opposed the organizing bid, claimed the union and Volkswagen’s German management “colluded for over two years to stack the deck against the workers” and allow a rapid-fire election.

“If UAW union officials cannot win when the odds are so stacked in their favor, perhaps they should reevaluate the product they are selling to workers,” Mix said in a statement.

After the tally was announced, a hundred or so dejected union supporters milled around the IBEW hall that had been the UAW’s organizing center, consoling one another about the outcome.

Rapid expansion

The vote at VW is another stinging setback for the UAW, which was rebuffed by a 2-to-1 ratio in its last secret-ballot election at a foreign automaker’s U.S. assembly plant—Nissan’s factory in Smyrna, Tenn., in 2001.

And the UAW’s ongoing attempt to recruit workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., and a Nissan factory in Canton, Miss.—it faces management opposition at both sites—now appears harder to achieve.

“While far from a death knell, this latest defeat suggests a turbulent future for an organization that has steadily lost membership and influence over the past four decades,” said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “We may never know what impact a union would have on future Volkswagen plant operations in Chattanooga, or other foreign plants in the region, but we do know the rapid expansion of southern auto manufacturing has occurred without union representation.”

Volkswagen AG started construction of the Chattanooga plant in 2008 as a cornerstone of its plan to push the VW brand into the top tier of car marques in the United States.

Since the plant opened in 2011, the productivity of the workforce and quality of the cars produced there have impressed top VW executives.

Crossover on table

Though weaker U.S. sales of the Passat in 2013 forced the company to cancel shifts, lay off 500 contract workers and dial back production from a high of 152,400 vehicles in 2012.

VW is also studying whether to build a crossover at the plant, a move that would likely boost capacity utilization.

Yet the plant has remained an outlier in VW’s far-flung global network of assembly plants, nearly all of which are unionized, and nearly all of which use German-style works councils to give workers a say in key business decisions.

Some legal experts say such councils run afoul of U.S. prohibitions on company-controlled unions unless workers join a third-party union first.

Before this week’s vote, VW and the UAW signed a 20-page agreement, dated Jan. 27, saying that if the majority of workers were to vote for UAW representation, the union would agree to hand over many of the functions that it usually oversees to a new works council.

“Our works councils are key to our success and productivity,” Frank Fischer, CEO of the Chattanooga plant, said in a statement before the vote. “It is a business model that helped to make Volkswagen the second-largest car company in the world. Our plant in Chattanooga has the opportunity to create a uniquely American works council, in which the company would be able to work cooperatively with our employees and ultimately their union representatives, if the employees decide they wish to be represented by a union.”

Works council still a goal

By rejecting the UAW, despite VW executives’ stated desire to set up a works council and their willingness to negotiate with the UAW, the workers in Chattanooga made clear how difficult it is to organize workers at automotive plants in the South.

Despite the vote, VW officials are not giving up on the idea of creating a worker-management group that would oversee some daily operations at the plant.

“Our employees have not made a decision that they are against a works council. Throughout this process, we found great enthusiasm for the idea of an American-style works council both inside and outside our plant,” Fischer said in a statement. “Our goal continues to be to determine the best method for establishing a works council in accordance with the requirements of U.S. labor law to meet VW America’s production needs and serve our employees’ interests.”

With a victory, the union would have negotiated wages and benefits for plant workers, leaving overtime rules, quality initiatives, health and safety guidelines and other daily operations to the works council.

Tennessee is one of 24 U.S. states with right-to-work laws, so a union victory would have still allowed workers to opt out of the union and avoid paying dues.

Union membership in Tennessee grew by 25 percent in 2013, the most of any state, with 31,000 new members over 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says. Even so, only 6.1 percent of the state’s workforce was unionized in 2013 compared with 11.3 percent nationally.

“It’s unfortunate that there was some outside influence exerted onto this process,” said Gary Casteel, director of the UAW’s region 8, where the VW plant is located. “These workers have stated their position and we respect that, so we’ll move forward from here and look forward to maybe someday in the future working with VW to establish a works council.”

Mike Burton, a paint shop employee and one of the leaders of the anti-UAW movement inside the plant, said he and his co-workers want to see how a works council might be set up without involvement of an outside union—despite assertions by VW that it wouldn’t pass legal muster.

He said that whether workers voted for or against the UAW, they want worker representation in the plant’s daily operations.

“We’re just not willing to pay $600 a year to have most of that money go out of our community,” Burton said.

“What they want and what we want are pretty much the same thing,” he added. “If they’re loyal to the UAW, they’re going to have to go someplace else. If they just want employee representation with the management here at Volkswagen, we will come up with a solution—and we will all benefit from it.”

David Phillips contributed to this report.

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Loss at Volkswagen plant upends union’s plan for U.S. South

By Bernie Woodall
Reuters
February 15, 2014

In a stinging defeat that could accelerate the decades-long decline of the United Auto Workers, Volkswagen AG workers voted against union representation at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, which had been seen as organized labor’s best chance to expand in the U.S. South.

The loss, 712 to 626, capped a sprint finish to a long race and was particularly surprising for UAW supporters, because Volkswagen had allowed the union access to the factory and officially stayed neutral on the vote, while other manufacturers have been hostile to organized labor.

UAW spent more than two years organizing and then called a snap election in an agreement with VW. German union IG Metall worked with the UAW to pressure VW to open its doors to organizers, but anti-union forces dropped a bombshell after the first of three days of voting.

Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga who helped win the VW plant, said on Wednesday after the first day of voting that VW would expand the factory if the union was rejected.

“Needless to say, I am thrilled,” Corker said in a statement after the results were disclosed.

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix hailed the outcome: “If UAW union officials cannot win when the odds are so stacked in their favor, perhaps they should re-evaluate the product they are selling to workers.”

An announcement of whether a new seven-passenger crossover vehicle will be produced in Chattanooga or in Mexico could come as early as next week, VW sources told Reuters.

Despite the indignation of pro-union forces, legal experts earlier had said that any challenge of the outcome, based on Corker’s comments, would be difficult, given broad free speech protection for U.S. Senators.

The UAW said it would “evaluate” the conduct in the vote, where 89 percent of eligible workers cast ballots.

“We are outraged at the outside interference in this election. It’s never happened in this country before that a U.S. senator, a governor, a leader of the house, a leader of the legislature here threatened the company with those incentives, threatened workers with the loss of product,” Bob King, the UAW president who has staked his legacy on expanding into the south, said.

UAW membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979 and now stands at just under 400,000.

The Tennessee decision is likely to reinforce the widely held notion that the UAW cannot make significant inroads in a region that historically has been steadfastly against organized labor and where all foreign-owned vehicle assembly plants employ nonunion workers.

Before the results were announced, King had said in an interview with Reuters that his group and the German union were already at work organizing a Daimler AG factory in Alabama.

“We will continue our efforts at Daimler. It’s not new. We’re there. We have a campaign. We have a plan. We are also very involved globally with Nissan, so that will continue,” he said. He did not mention the other plants when speaking to reporters late in the evening.

Dennis Cuneo, a partner at Fisher & Phillips, a national labor law firm that represents management, said earlier in the day that a loss would be a big setback for the union movement in the South, showing the UAW was unable to convince rank-and-file workers even with management’s cooperation.

Such a loss “makes the UAW’s quest to organize southern auto plants all the more difficult,” he said.

Local anti-union organizers had protested the UAW from the start, reflecting deep concerns among many workers that a union would strain cordial relations with the company, which pays well by local and U.S. auto industry standards.

Mike Burton, one of the anti-union leaders, cheered the results. “Not on our watch,” he exulted, adding, as did VW management, that plans to find a way for a workers council to help set rules for the factory would continue.

Many labor experts have said that a workers council, which is used in Germany, would not be possible at a U.S. VW factory without a union.

“We felt like we were already being treated very well by Volkswagen in terms of pay and benefits and bonuses,” said Sean Moss, who voted against the UAW. “We also looked at the track record of the UAW. Why buy a ticket on the Titanic?” he added.

Many workers believed that the union had hurt operations at plants run by General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler, now a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he said

For VW, the stakes also were high. The German automaker invested $1 billion in the Chattanooga plant, which began building Passat mid-size sedans in April 2011, after being awarded more than $577 million in state and local incentives.

VW executives have said the new crossover vehicle, due in 2016 and known internally as CrossBlue, could be built at either the Chattanooga plant or in Mexico, but Tennessee facility was built with the expectation of a second vehicle line.

The vote has received global attention, and even President Barack Obama waded into the discussion early on Friday, accusing Republican politicians of being more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers.

The vote must be certified by the National Labor Relations Board.

(Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Andreas Cremer in Berlin; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Ross Colvin and Ken Wills)

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VW workers may block southern U.S. deals if no unions: labor chief

By Andreas Cremer
Reuters
February 19, 2014

olkswagen’s top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.

Workers at VW’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last Friday voted against representation by the United Auto Workers union (UAW), rejecting efforts by VW representatives to set up a German-style works council at the plant.

German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined “co-determination” principle which is anathema to many politicians in the U.S. who see organized labor as a threat to profits and job growth.

Chattanooga is VW’s only factory in the U.S. and one of the company’s few in the world without a works council.

“I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again,” said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council.

“If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor” of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW’s supervisory board, said.

The 20-member panel - evenly split between labor and management - has to approve any decision on closing plants or building new ones.

Osterloh’s comments were published on Wednesday in German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. A spokesman at the Wolfsburg-based works council confirmed the remarks.

“The conservatives stirred up massive, anti-union sentiments,” Osterloh said. “It’s possible that the conclusion will be drawn that this interference amounted to unfair labor praxis.”

Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a staunch opponent of unionization, said last Wednesday after the first day of voting that VW would award the factory another model if the UAW was rejected.

The comments even prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene, accusing Republicans of trying to block the Chattanooga workforce’s efforts.

Undeterred by last Friday’s vote, VW’s works council has said it will press on with efforts to set up labor representation at Chattanooga which builds the Passat sedan.

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