Why The UAW’s Loss At Chattanooga Was Good For Autoworkers

A worker at VW's Chattanooga plant answers questions from the author during a plant tour in 2011.     A worker at VW's Chattanooga plant answers questions from the author during a plant tour in 2011.

A worker at VW’s Chattanooga plant answers questions from the author during a plant tour in 2011.

My latest post at Bloomberg’s The Ticker blog covers the UAW’s defeat in Chattanooga… and that’s right, it was good for autoworkers. I don’t believe unions are intrinsically good or bad, but I know the UAW has nothing to offer auto workers. The deeply unfair Two Tier wage structure drives away new hires, and in Chattanooga the union was simply trying to rent-seek on what could be an important experiment in US labor relations.

Put simply, VW management and Chattanooga workers alike want a German-style works council, not the UAW. The law should allow workers to adopt works councils and other innovative representative tools (considered a major factor in the success of Germany’s auto industry), and not simply enforce a politicized union’s monopoly (which has nearly a half-century of decline in jobs and wages in this country to answer for).

A lot of people have been reacting to this news with the old trope of the South’s ingrained resistance to change, but what’s really happening is a much-needed innovation in labor relations: decoupling plant-specific worker representation from the political machines that unions like the UAW have become. The key to remaining competitive is experimenting with what is proven to work for others, not retreating into a long-faded past. If works councils wash away the UAW, workers will be far better off for it.

Volkswagen Chattanooga: VW management believed to be split over UAW

    The numbers that really matter at VW Chattanooga.
There are signs from Germany that Volkswagen management is not so gung-ho to bring the UAW to its U.S. plant as many, and foremost the UAW, believe. Yesterday, “the incoming leader of an influential German union warned Volkswagen AG about trying to avoid unions in Tennessee, where the German automaker has an assembly plant,” Reuters wrote. Why would this indicate a division in Volkswagen’s upper management? [Continue Reading]

In Chattanooga, flashbacks of the Volkswagen Westmoreland suicide series

Westmoreland - Picture courtesy cultclassicwesty.files.wordpress.com

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. [Continue Reading]

Volkswagen Chattanooga: Why VW execs love the NLRB complaint

 

Which way?

Which way?

 

Four workers of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that Volkswagen officials said the plant “would not get additional vehicle production and future jobs unless a German-style form of representation was installed at the plant,” as Reuters reports. That charge is easy to prove. It is not unwelcome at Volkswagen’s board. [Continue Reading]

Volkswagen Chattanooga Card Check: Does the UAW play tricks with two sets of cards?

 

Which way to the truth?

Which way to the truth?

Has the UAW misled workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, and tricked them into signing cards that endorse the UAW? A National Labor Relations Board complaint filed by the National Right to Work Foundation says so. On inspection of the card, the complaint does not hold water. Some say there are two sets of cards.

[Continue Reading]

Blind Spot: The Chattanooga Two-Step

A worker at VW's Chattanooga plant answers questions from the author during a plant tour in 2011.

A worker at VW’s Chattanooga plant answers questions from the author during a plant tour in 2011.

 

When United Auto Workers President Bob King staked the future of his union on a campaign to organize a transplant auto factory, the desperation was palpable. Decades of membership decline culminating  in the drama of GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcy-bailout had left the UAW reeling. Few observers gave the union, which hadn’t organized a transplant auto factory in the US  since 1978, much chance of success.

Now the UAW stands at the brink of a historical act of redemption, having all but claimed victory in the drive to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant. While we wait to see whether that claim holds up, it’s worth examining a few intriguing but undercovered aspects of this case and assess what the impact of a resurgent UAW could be.

[Continue Reading]