Chattanooga VW Workers Vote for a Union: UAW

VWCHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant have voted overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their representative for the purpose of initiating collective bargaining.

In a two-day election on Thursday and Friday, 152 skilled trades employees cast ballots. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which supervised the election, confirmed that 71% of employees voting favored recognition for Local 42. Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining.

“A key objective for our local union always has been moving toward collective bargaining for the purpose of reaching a multi-year contract between Volkswagen and employees in Chattanooga,” said Mike Cantrell, president of Local 42. “We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining. We believe these paths will give all of us a voice at Volkswagen in due time.” Continue reading

The UAW’s Election Loss at Chattanooga VW Plant Will Not End the Southern Auto Organizing Drive

by Paul Garver

Attributing its narrow loss at the Chattanooga VW plant to outrageous outside interference by anti-union special interest groups and right-wing politicians, on 21st February 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 and wealthy anti-union organizations.

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  prevail in an unchanged hostile external political environment and continuing opposition to the union by some workers. However a new combination of political mobilization in the community and renewed organizing efforts by pro-union VW workers and their families can succeed.

I went away from a workshop with renewed hope at the recent Labor Notes conference in Chicago addressed by Volkswagon workers  and by Chris Brooks, of Chattanooga Organized for Action.  The workers and Chris explained with passion and clear analytical thinking how the union came close to victory, only to be blindsided by a massive anti-union campaign fueled by hundreds of thousands of dollars from shadowy outside special interests.

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UAW Appeals Election Loss at Chattanooga VW Plant

[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

Woolworth’s Sit-Down Strike in 1937 Detroit: Lessons for Today’s Low-Wage Workers

by Marc Norton

woolworth_sitinIn 1937, Woolworth’s was the Walmart of its day. The company had transformed the retail marketplace by creating a national chain of stores staffed by low-wage workers, mostly young women. The lunch counters in these stores, serving inexpensive food, were in some ways a precursor to today’s fast food mega-corporations.

So the story of a successful sit-down strike at a Woolworth’s in Detroit gives us some useful parallels for low-wage workers today. In the wake of the Walmart and fast food strikes on Black Friday and December 5, it’s worth asking where the movement is going. What are its goals? How can they be achieved? Are workers getting organized for the long haul? Are we on a path to victory?

The Detroit sit-down electrified the nation at the time, but has been relegated to a footnote in mainstream history, even among labor historians. A recent pamphlet by history professor Dana Frank at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) should resurrect this history and its lessons. Continue reading

Volkswagen Isn’t Fighting Unionization—But Leaked Docs Show Right-Wing Groups Are

By Mike Elk

Anti-union conservatives are worried that if the UAW successfully organizes Volkwagen's Tennessee plant, it will create a domino effect in the South. Here, protesters lift a sign supporting a UAW organizing campaign at a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. (Photo from United Auto Workers on Facebook)

Anti-union conservatives are worried that if the UAW successfully organizes Volkwagen’s Tennessee plant, it will create a domino effect in the South. Here, protesters lift a sign supporting a UAW organizing campaign at a Nissan plant in Canton, Miss. (Photo from United Auto Workers on Facebook)

After Volkswagen issued a letter in September saying the company would not oppose an attempt by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize its 1,600-worker Chattanooga, Tenn., facility, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was flabbergasted.

“For management to invite the UAW in is almost beyond belief,” Corker, who campaigned heavily for the plant’s construction during his tenure as mayor of Chattanooga, told the Associated Press. “They will become the object of many business school studies—and I’m a little worried could become a laughingstock in many ways—if they inflict this wound.”

Corker isn’t the only right-winger out to halt UAW’s campaign. In the absence of any overt anti-union offensive by Volkswagen, conservative political operatives worried about the UAW getting a foothold in the South have stepped into the fray.

Leaked documents obtained by In These Times, as well as interviews with a veteran anti-union consultant, indicate that a conservative group, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, appears to be pumping hundred of thousands of dollars into media and grassroots organizing in an effort to stop the union drive. In addition, the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation helped four anti-union workers in October file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Volkswagen was forcing a union on them. Continue reading

Detroit Bankruptcy and the assault on labor

Remarks  for DSA Youth Conference August 9, 2013          Jack Clark.

This morning’s session focuses on the future of the labor movement.  That’s proper.  For all its flaws and its current weakness, labor remains the largest and most strategically important social movement fighting for ordinary Americans.  It’s difficult to imagine a revitalized liberal-left coalition without a strengthened labor movement.  It is impossible to imagine the development of an American democratic socialist current in the absence of a strong working class movement.

With that said, I am not beginning my presentation with a look at labor itself.  Rather I want to start by looking at attacks on labor and particular one influential attack that uses the crisis in Detroit as the reason to attack unions. .  I’ll take a provocative look at a large question posed by one of labor’s foes and  suggest a large theme that might inform our struggle, and I’ll end by suggesting some specifics on what we want to fight for as allies and participants in labor’s cause. Continue reading

Unions, Money, and Mergers

by Carl Proper

Carl Proper

Carl Proper

Money matters to unions. Financial resources are hard to obtain, easy to waste, and essential to union survival. Historically, the effort to accrue or protect a financial foundation has also caused many internal union conflicts, mergers and failures.

Capital’s obvious understanding of the power that derives from fiscal strength explains, among other realities, the persistent – and recently successful — efforts of labor’s corporate enemies to de-fund unions through blocking dues collection. Union leaders, unfortunately, are often untrained and unskilled in managing this critical resource, and may think it is inappropriate or unnecessary for them to learn. Through mismanagement of money, they may defeat the purpose for which they presumably became leaders in the first place – serving their members, or the working class.

This history recounts a struggle between two great and historically progressive unions over leadership, organizing jurisdiction (itself a form of property rights), and inherited financial resources. I focus here on financial issues, not because they were the core of the struggle, but because they are seldom discussed, and critical to labor’s history and future. I will also focus on the roles of labor leaders, who are the financial decision-makers, rather than on the rank and file. In later chapters, questions of leadership character, membership involvement and exploitation, and jurisdictional issues will get their due. One conclusion that I would reach, however, is that open discussion of money matters with union members produces better decisions than haste and secrecy. Continue reading

Supreme Court Scrutiny of ‘Neutrality’ Pacts Could Be Another Blow to Unions

by Bruce Vail

Photo John Hartnup/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Photo John Hartnup/Flickr/Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will accept a case for review next year on the use of labor-management “neutrality” agreements in union organizing campaigns. An anti-union decision from the high court would make labor organizing more difficult and threaten labor organizations at a national level, labor experts say.

At issue are the so-called neutrality agreements between unions and employers in which the employer agrees beforehand not to actively oppose the union organizing process at a specific workplace. Typically, such agreements specify that both sides refrain from inflammatory or divisive tactics, and that the workers be allowed to choose or oppose union representation free from any pressure or intimidation from either side. Continue reading

The Union Suppression Movement

LeoCaseyAmerica’s Union Suppression Movement (And Its Apologists), Part One

Leo Casey on April 17, 2013
Last week, in “Is There A ‘Corporate Education Reform’ Movement?”, I wrote about the logic of forming strategic alliances on specific issues with those who are not natural allies, even those with whom you mostly disagree. This does not mean, however, that there aren’t those – some with enormous wealth and power – who are bent on undermining the American labor movement generally and teachers’ unions specifically. This is part one of a two-part post on this reality.

The American union movement is, it must be said, embattled and beleaguered. The recent passage of the Orwellian named ‘right to work’ law in Michigan, an anti-union milestone in the birthplace of the United Auto Workers and cradle of American industrial unionism, is but the latest assault on American working people and their unions.[1] Since the backlash election of 2010 that brought Tea Party Republicans to power in a number of state governments, public sector workers have faced a legislative agenda designed to eviscerate their rights to organize unions and bargain collectively in such states as Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire and Virginia.

Fueling these attacks is an underlying organic crisis that has greatly weakened the labor movement and its ability to defend itself. Union membership has fallen from a high point of 1 in 3 American workers at the end of WW II to a shade over 1 in 9 today. [2] At its height, American unions had unionized basic industries – auto, mining, steel, textiles, telecommunications – and had sufficient density to raise wages and improve working conditions for members and non-union workers as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for 2012, organized American labor has fallen to its lowest density in nearly a century. Today, American unions have high density in only one major sector of the economy, K-12 education, and in that sector unions are now under ferocious attack. [3] Continue reading

National Writers Union Withdraws from Huffington Post Boycott

National Writers Union

Today, the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 is withdrawing from the boycott of the Huffington Post, which began after it was acquired by AOL for $315 million last March. NWU and The Newspaper Guild-CWA have been “electronic picket captains” with the support of many, many progressive writers, bloggers and organizations. For now, the boycott has run its course.

But the NWU is continuing and intensifying our Pay The Writer! campaign to establish fair pay rates for freelance journalists working for the Huffington Post and other online publications. On October 11, we held our first national event, a live-streamed panel discussing the future of online freelance journalism (video available on www.paythewriter.org). We will continue to organize around these principles:

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