A Union Vote With The Company’s Blessing

Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga vote today on whether to join the United Automobile Workers. Lydia DePillis outlines what’s at stake:

If a majority of Volkswagen’s 1,570 hourly workers vote yes, it would mark the first time in nearly three decades of trying that the UAW has successfully organized a plant for a foreign brand in the United States. This time, the union has a powerful ally: Volkswagen itself, which is hoping the union will collaborate in a German-style “works council” and help manage plant operations.

Tennessee’s GOP leaders — along with well-funded conservative activists such as Grover Norquist — aren’t letting the UAW in without a fight.

Seth Michaels looks at the Republican campaign to stop the plant from unionizing:

Sen. Bob Corker held a press conference Tuesday specifically to ask VW employees to reject a union, claiming potential negative impact on the state’s economy. More insidiously, state legislators suggested that they might punish VW if employees vote for the union – withholding tax incentives for future expansions, for example. In addition to likely being illegal, these threats have a special kind of irony: “we’re so worried that you’ll have a negative jobs impact that we’re willing to block future jobs to prevent it.”

Waldman thinks this reveals something ugly about the Republican anti-union agenda:

Here you have a highly profitable company that wants to have a more cooperative relationship with its workers, and obviously sees a union as a path to that relationship, because they know that they can work that way with unions, since they do it already all over the world. But the Republican politicians don’t care about what the corporation wants. They are so venomously opposed to collective bargaining that they’ll toss aside all their supposed ideals about economic liberty in a heartbeat.

Rana Foroohar chimes in:

[T]he truth is that there’s little evidence that the anti-union manufacturing model (exemplified by companies like Nissan) works better than the unionized one, particularly when it incorporates Germanic work councils. VW actually credits the system with making it the largest and richest auto firm in the world. What’s more, the workers I’ve spoken with in Chattanooga say they are less interested in pay hikes than in having some say over which cars get made in the factory, what sorts of training programs they’ll have access to, etc.