In Chattanooga, flashbacks of the Volkswagen Westmoreland suicide series

Westmoreland - Picture courtesy

Volkswagen and the UAW want to “avoid Pennsylvania missteps in Tennessee plant,” says Reuters. How they will do that remains a mystery. The missteps include more than 19 people who killed themselves.

“UAW leaders say things will be different this time,” Reuters reports, “ because they want to establish what they call a new kind of labor model in Tennessee, where the union would represent hourly workers in partnership with a German-style workers council.”

Not true. In the U.S., the works council lacks the legal foundation it has in Germany and other EU countries. There, a works council does not need union participation. In the U.S., no works council is possible without a union. Run by the UAW, the works council will turn Volkswagen Chattanooga into a union shop, and it sets it up to repeat the same mistakes.

At its peak, Volkswagen’s Westmoreland plant had over 6,000 employees. It was organized by the UAW, true to form, work started with a strike. Ten years later, Volkswagen closed the plant, production moved to Mexico. Today the entire population of New Stanton, Pa., is 1,906. The plant is still empty.

Closing the plant did cost many lives. Reuters talked to Ron Dinsmore, a former VW worker. He “kept a grisly toll of the pain: the number of suicides of former workers. He stopped counting at 19. ‘I used to go to every funeral home,’ said Dinsmore, 71. ‘I quit doing it. It got morbid.’

Volkswagen and the UAW are still going ahead with their plan of turning VW Chattanooga into a union shop.