Believe It or Not, Volkswagen WANTS The UAW
When the workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga voted against UAW representation, a lot of people were happy. Tennessee senator Bob Corker and governor Bill Haslam, both of whom threatened to yank tax incentives if the UAW won, expressed satisfaction. Conservative commentators around the nation talked about the “death of the UAW,” and commenters here on TundraHeadquarters traded anti-UAW barbs.
To be clear, I’m not a fan of the UAW. While the UAW helps all autoworkers earn more money (UAW labor rates set the standard for the rest of the industry), the union also promotes an “us vs. them” attitude among workers that is neither appropriate or productive. I’ve written time and again about the UAW’s ineptitude and general awfulness.
Yet this time, I think the UAW should have won…and I think the UAW’s loss is a slap in the face to business owners everywhere.
Government Interference is Bad, Unless Republicans Do It
The only thing I dislike more than the UAW’s mob mentality is government interference…and make no mistake, the UAW’s defeat in Chattanooga was mostly government interference.
- VW wants to implement a “works council” a the Chattanooga plant, but US law prohibits a works council unless the workers are represented by a union. This is so workers can’t be bound by the decisions of one or two random individuals sitting on some council – the worker’s representatives would be appointed or elected by the union instead.
- Chattanooga is currently the only VW plant in the world that doesn’t have a works council.
For these reasons, VW wanted the UAW. VW leadership publicly stated as much on more than one occasion.
Yet in a direct conflict with a stated “pro business” agenda, conservative Republicans in Tennessee (and conservative activist groups from outside the state) said that VW couldn’t be the master of their own auto plant. They used advertising, threats to revoke preferential tax agreements (govt. interference), and made unqualified statements about “more jobs” if the UAW was defeated.
How, I ask, can a conservative be “pro business” and simultaneously interfere in VW’s business? VW wanted the UAW – shouldn’t that be the end of the story?
Tennessee Conservatives Won The Battle But Lost the War
Here’s the punchline in this whole confrontation: while Tennessee Republicans promised that VW would expand the plant and add more jobs, VW’s very own Bernd Osterloh said that VW may not expand the Chattanooga plant as a result of the UAW’s defeat.
It turns out, an actual “works council” manages Volkswagen’s global operations. Guess who manages the works council board? A union man. And guess what that union man thinks about the UAW’s defeat in Tennessee? He’s not too found of it. VW doesn’t have to expand Chattanooga – they can choose to build a new plant in a state like Michigan, where the UAW is politically strong.
WOW! That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what all these conservative activists promised, isn’t it? Instead of getting more jobs by defeating the union, Tennessee might lose out on a major plant expansion.
I don’t like the UAW. I don’t think they add more to the auto industry than they take. But I find it perplexing – and indefensible – for so-called conservatives to block VW’s attempt to bring in the UAW.
If you’re really a conservative, shouldn’t you believe in letting business owners do what they think is best for their business? As stupid as it may be, VW has a right to ask the UAW to represent their workers, don’t they?
Filed Under: Auto News