Posted on July 23, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Wade Rathke
Chairman of Volkswagen announced in Germany with the Tennessee Governor and US Senator Bob Coker from Tennessee hanging on every word, that the company will add 2000 workers, spend $600 million adding a new SUV line at the Chattanooga plant, and collect $166 million from the State of Tennessee in tax and other subsidies as well as $12 million in lagniappe to throw at job training for the new workers. On this score everyone can agree, but after that confusion reigns.
Senator Coker, speaking for the red-meat, union haters in the local and statewide business community, when asked for his reaction to both the plant expansion and news recently that the UAW had opened an office, chartered a local, and was hunkering down in its ongoing effort to unionize the plant, snarled through an office statement, “Any union can rent space in any city and open an office.” Well, that’s good to know, Senator? The Governor seemed more rooted in the emerging reality and praised the workers and the fact that the VW decision was a vote of confidence in them.
Filed under: Organizing | Tagged: Chattanooga, UAW, VW, Works Council | 2 Comments »
Posted on July 14, 2014 by paulgarver
by Paul Garver
The campaign to organize Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga is taking a new and interesting direction.
The UAW has chartered Local 42 as a new local organization representing workers at the VW plant. According to the UAW press release, Local 42 will offer the workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace similar to the VW works council system for employee representation in Germany. Calling itself “Volkswagen’s works council partner,” the union pledged to continue its advocacy for state incentives to encourage VW to expand production and create jobs at the Chattanooga plant.
Unlike the usual American labor relations system the union will not have the right to exclusive representation, nor will it represent workers other than its own members. However the UAW expects that the company will “recognize” the union once it has signed up a “meaningful” portion of its workforce as an organization that represents its own members. Since the union had dropped its NLRB challenge to the February representation election it had narrowly lost, it could no longer at this time seek formal collective bargaining rights nor the right to exclusive representation of the work force.
Filed under: Employee Free Choice Act, Global organizing, Organizing | Tagged: Chattanooga, Mercedes Benz, UAW, VW | Leave a comment »
Posted on May 5, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Wade Rathke
(April 22) Politicians and the in-plant anti-union committee at Volkswagen in Chattanooga were both chortling and celebrating the announcement that the UAW had withdrawn its election objections before the NLRB hearing on the issues raised in its recent, narrow defeat. They are laughing too soon. They are actually totally misreading the organizing tactics, and interpreting a tactical withdrawal as a concession, rather than the more accurate understanding that this is a huge signal from the UAW that they are in fact deepening their commitment to keeping the campaign alive for a second shot at an election.
There are never any future guarantees in organizing about when the time might be right to go another round, but the UAW at the crossroads faced two choices. One was to fully engage on the legal struggle around their objections and run the clock out for years in back-and-forth appeals. This is usually the “long game” after an election defeat where basically the union tries to save face institutionally and to maintain other organizing efforts by giving organizers and leaders’ talking points framed on the notion that there’s still a heartbeat, that justice will be done, and hope is a plan. It’s a sad organizing strategy since even miraculously winning a second election after years would have tended to alienate the workforce, making a better result difficult. Continue reading
Filed under: Organizing | Tagged: Chattanooga, NLRB, UAW, VW | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 27, 2014 by paulgarver
by Joe Uehlein
The approach of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 provides us an opportunity to reflect on the “long, strange trip” shared by the environmental movement and the labor movement over four decades here on Spaceship Earth. A billion people participate in Earth Day events, making it the largest secular civic event in the world. But when it was founded in 1970, according to Earth Day’s first national coordinator Denis Hayes, “Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!” Less than a week after he first announced the idea for Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson presented his proposal to the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO. Walter Ruther, President of the UAW, enthusiastically donated $2000 to help kick the effort off – to be followed by much more. Hayes recalls: “The UAW was by far the largest contributor to the first Earth Day, and its support went beyond the merely financial. It printed and mailed all our materials at its expense — even those critical of pollution-belching cars. Its organizers turned out workers in every city where it has a presence. And, of course, Walter then endorsed the Clear Air Act that the Big Four were doing their damnedest to kill or gut.”
Some people may be surprised to learn that a labor union played such a significant role in the emergence of the modern environmental movement. When they think of organized labor, they think of things like support for coal and nuclear power plants and opposition to auto emissions standards. When it comes to the environment, organized labor has two hearts beating within a single breast. On the one hand, the millions of union members are people and citizens like everybody else, threatened by air and water pollution, dependent of fossil fuels, and threatened by the devastating consequences of climate change. On the other hand, unions are responsible for protecting the jobs of their members, and efforts to protect the environment sometimes may threaten workers’ jobs.
First as a working class kid and then as a labor official, I’ve been dealing with the two sides of this question my whole life. Continue reading
Filed under: Green Jobs/Green Economy, Labor History, Uncategorized | Tagged: Earth Day, Labor Network for Sustainability, Reuther, U-Liners, UAW, Uehlein | 2 Comments »
Posted on April 21, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Laura Clawson
The UAW is giving up its appeal of February’s union representation election at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, Volkswagen plant. The union had subpoenaed Republican officials like Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker, around whose threats of dire consequences if workers unionized the appeal to the National Labor Relations Board had centered, seeking information on those threats. But, unsurprisingly, the same people who threatened workers over a union vote weren’t interested in participating in a fair appeals process, a process that could drag on almost indefinitely: Continue reading
Filed under: Organizing | Tagged: Chattanooga, NLRB, UAW, VW | 2 Comments »
Posted on March 18, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
(Feb 18 , 2014) The election loss at the Chattanooga plant of VW was, first and foremost, a loss suffered by the workers. Secondarily it was a loss suffered by the United Auto Workers. The workers at that facility lost the chance to bargain collectively and to obtain a voice in their workplace. This was a loss that was mainly the result of the all-out right-wing offensive that took place in TN against the workers and their–the workers’–decision to seek representation. And, as is the case for all workers who lack collective bargaining (or the even rarer personal contract), they remain in a free-fire zone where they can be removed from their job for any reason or no reason as long as the reason does not violate statute. I am sorry; i just needed to cut to the chase.
Yet, we cannot stop there with our reflections on what transpired. This was a situation where the company–VW–agreed to be neutral and, in many ways,seemed to welcome the union. Nevertheless, by a relatively slim majority, the proponents of workers’ rights did not prevail. This reality emphasizes the point that employer neutrality, while important, is insufficient. There are larger factors at stake when workers must make a decision on union representation, particularly in a period where labor unions have been under such vicious assault. The decision, in this case, of the Republican Party and others on the political Right to draw a line in the sand and go all out to intimidate the workforce is a case-in-point. The workers, their families and friends had to decide whether the threats coming from the political Right were genuine or just rhetoric. Given the history of anti-worker repression in the South, along with the on-going racist efforts to secure a ‘white bloc’ against progress, the messages of the political Right came through loud and clear. Continue reading
Filed under: Organizing, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: Chattanooga, UAW, VW | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 24, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Eric Fink
“Organize the South” was the call on Monday evening February 17 in Durham, North Carolina, where an overflow crowd gathered for a discussion on “How a Southern Workers’ Movement Can Change the Nation.” Worker advocates and adversaries alike have identified the South as a crucial battleground in the fight to reverse the long decline of the U.S. labor movement. This Fall, the AFL-CIO committed itself “to develop a Southern organizing strategy” as “one of its top priorities”. The UAW’s bid to represent workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee became a focal point in that fight, and the union’s narrow defeat in last week’s NLRB representation vote has led some to suggest–dolefully in the case of union supporters, cheerfully in the case of union busters–that a southern organizing strategy remains futile.
The panelists at Monday’s event in Durham rejected that pessimistic conclusion. Their common message was that unions can win in the South, and doing so is an essential part of the broader goal of defeating the reactionary political and economic agenda nationwide. The key to labor’s success in the South is cultivating and mobilizing community support for workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.
Filed under: Organizing | Tagged: Duke University, FLOC, Organize the South, Smithfield Foods, Southern Workers Assembly, UAW, UE, UFCW, VW | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 22, 2014 by paulgarver
[Ed. note: Attributing its narrow loss at the Chattanooga VW plant to outrageous outside interference, the UAW formally filed objections to the election with the NLRB. This is new legal terrain, since the electoral misconduct stemmed not as customary from management but from misleading and coercive statements by right-wing politicians.
The success of the UAW's novel legal appeal is far from certain, despite its evident justification. It is also uncertain, even if a new election is granted, whether the union would necessarily prevail in an unchanged hostile external political environment and continuing opposition to the union by many workers. However a new combination of political mobilization in the community and renewed efforts to reach VW workers and their families could succeed. --Paul Garver]
The text of the UAW press release on the NLRB appeal follows below the line Continue reading
Filed under: Busting the union busters, Organizing, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: Chattanooga, NLRB, UAW, United Auto Workers, VW | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 21, 2014 by dsalaborblogmoderator
by Steve Early
Most progressive media commentary on the United Auto Workers’ defeat last week in a key Volkswagen (VW) plant election has focused, understandably, on the role of outside union-bashers, the anti-union culture of the south, or the unfavorable racial composition of the company’s Chattanooga, TN. workforce. (See, for example, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-cohen/senator-corker-must-be-he_b_4800269.html or http://prospect.org/article/when-culture-eclipses-class)
Pursuant to negotiations with the UAW and its German union ally, IG Metall, Volkswagen agreed not to campaign against unionization in a blue-collar unit of 1,500. UAW organizers got highly unusual access to the plant to make their case at several hour-long shift meetings and in any one-on-one conversations that VW employees wanted to initiate in a specially designated room or other non-work areas just prior to the vote. The only limit on UAW communication was a legal pledge not to visit employees, uninvited, at home, and to keep any written comments about the company “positive” and “non-adversarial.”
So the usual management task of going negative—to scare workers into voting “No”–was undertaken with typical conservative gusto by influential state legislators, the governor of Tennessee, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, and other well-funded GOP helpers from out-of-state. Their compelling message was that a pro-union vote would deprive the plant of new work and/or continued public subsidies. President Obama weighed in tepidly and semi-privately on the union side; his intervention, per usual, was too little, too late. Continue reading
Filed under: Organizing | Tagged: Chattanooga, UAW, VW | 3 Comments »