Believe It or Not, Volkswagen WANTS The UAW

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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.

Consider this:

  1. 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.
  2. 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


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  1. Rick says:

    I read something different than you are writing.

    I did see on liberal websites that “the government” interfered in the UAW vote? How so?

    Republicans, who tend to be for union-free businesses. Big labor like the UAW is associated with open, self-described Communists like AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka.

    But the gov did NOT vote (this is not a US presidential election!) The workers voted despite any comments to sway them by either side. Unions have been and are still on the decline for a while now. Union membership is being contested by its members for its usefulness among other things. I argue that today, union labor produces an inferior product. Unions in Germany produce BMW’s and VW’s that achieve poorly on quality control surveys, etc. I won’t buy either of those company’s product because I know the manufacturer consistently won’t back up the product when it fails.

    My union-free Tundra is built rather well and Toyota fares much better on those surveys than GM, Ford or Chrysler. Chrysler has Land Rover’s deserved reputation for poor reliability – whether that’s still true or not – the smudge remains in buyer’s minds.

    I read that VW threatened to move the plant elsewhere IF the union vote prevailed. So the company influenced the vote more than anyone else. But my feeling is the workers just want to work hard and get paid for their skill without a traditional adversarial relationship with their employer. Toyota on the other hand, has reaped the benefits of hard work.

    “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” – Booker T. Washington.

    • Rick – Sen. Corker claimed to know that VW wouldn’t expand Chattanooga if the UAW won. Gov. Haslam said he didn’t see any way the Tennessee legislature would give VW any sort of tax credits if the UAW won. Some state senator explicitly threatened to yank existing tax credits if the UAW won (I don’t recall his name).

      These are all govt. employees, and two of them are very high profile. If that’s not govt. interference, I don’t know what is.

      As for the bits about union vehicles being inferior, that’s not my point. My point is that VW has a right to run their business any way they see fit.

      Finally, you said that you read VW threatened to move the plant. Please share a link – I’d bet you a dollar that the “source” on that news was anonymous.

      VW, on the other hand, has been quoted as saying that they wanted the UAW and – as I linked to in the article – that the UAW’s loss may block future development.

      Like I said, I’m not a fan of the UAW, but the facts here are very clear. Tennessee’s conservative politicians stuck their nose where they shouldn’t have.

  2. Mickey says:

    Unions have always been in bed with the democrats. As far as tax credits and so on it’s done by both sides of the political party. If VW wanted a union then VW should have put the union in there on day one. As for plant expansion if VW doesn’t want it there then so be it. The people in Chattanooga don’t have to buy one. I wouldn’t just because of what they are doing. So let the VW build a new plant in MI or better yet maybe Detroit. I personally hate when politicians gives all these breaks to companies where the consumer pays the bill.

    • Mickey – I hear you on tax breaks. I think that these are incredibly unfair…you have to be a big business to get one, and big business gets a lot of breaks as it is.

      It’s a good point that democrats interfere to the UAW’s benefit. However, the difference (at least in my eyes) is that democrats don’t talk about being “pro-business” the way that Republicans do.

      I consider myself a Republican, and I think this stinks. Republicans should leave business owners alone and focus on finding ways to make govt. more efficient and effective.

  3. Randy says:

    This is exactly why the union could win this in the end.

    1) If they cannot get this by the vote of the workers (which they did not), then

    2) They will attempt to win it by the courts (which they own); and if they don’t

    3) Then VW will threaten to leave; because they are under 100% direct control of the EU.

    The local and state republicans have absolutely “no say” in this matter. VW is exactly 100% like GM, they both “require” unions as dictated by their governments. There is no difference.

    This is what it is like to be under liberal elitist control of a World Order. Everyone loses except the elitist.

    We are all merely slaves of the state.

    • Well, you lost me at “liberal elitist control”, but that’s the beauty of living in a free country, isn’t it? 🙂

      • Randy says:

        I really do work hard to tone myself down. LOL

        Anyway just like the internet works better when the pipe is bigger, we can still find out where it all comes from if we go to the source of the problem; at the beginning of the pipe.

        “K” Street is the pipe (the biggest pipe of all). Just “follow the money” and it will lead you to the elitist that control it all for the entire world.

  4. Larry says:

    As a member of no party, an outsider looking in, the only people who think Republicans are conservative are members of the republican party.

    They both want more government as long as it’s their idea of more government. We need more free markets and less government. Governments role is to oversee the competitive playing field not to spot one side points to get a certain outcome.

    We should have let GM die a long time ago.

    I too wonder how the government could to anything to make me vote one way or the other. It seems far fetched that the outcome at VW was anything more then a UAW loss.

    I am all for the rights of those who wish to joint a union and those who do not wish to joint should be able to work in the same place as a non-member. But, if a union wishes to have the power to close a company and have total control over the labor force like in non right to work states, that union must also accept government regulation.

    Randy, I wouldn’t worry too much about the EU, they have a terminal conditon which is going to take all they have just to stay on life support. Sovereign countries which don’t even control their own monitory systems, what a concept.

    • “They both want more government as long as it’s their idea of more government.” Mostly I agree.

      Republicans talk about “small govt,” but then they turn around and advocate for military spending…conveniently ignoring that the military gets half a trillion a year. There’s nothing “small” about half a trilling.

      Democrats, on the other hand, have never met a govt. program they didn’t like.

      It’s incredibly frustrating, isn’t it?

  5. Mh says:

    I do agree with your last question. They do have the right to have the UAW represent them. They also have the right to work without union representation, acording to the labor laws. The company voted and the majority did not want the union. If they were persuaded one way or the other, they voted. Just as any campaign that is run you will hear stories ( lies) from both sides pleading their case. How anyone reacts to the campaign is their business. Also as you have said the company VW wanted a works council but did the company’s workers? That is the question. The workers voted and the votes were tallied. I work in the car manufacturing business without union representation and all is well. Yes it would be nice to have more and get everything that a union promises but no layoffs and stability go a long way as well.

    • My only point is that politicians put the workers in a very difficult spot – the state threatened to yank incentives, while the Senator claims to have insider info that seems patently false.

      Perhaps politics is always dirty, but to me this smacks of hypocrisy. I’d like to think that an intellectually honest conservative would recognize that VW is entitled to run their factory any way they want. By interfering, these politicians proved that they don’t *really* care about business concerns.

      At least that’s my take as a small business owner. 🙂

      • Larry says:

        “Perhaps politics is always dirty”


        What does a union do, it promises things which can only be delivered in the short term.

        What does a politician do, promises things which he/she can only deliver in the short term.

        The promises are made to people to get votes. Is that corrupt/dirty, perhaps but, it’s up to the voters to educate themselves and to know when they have been fooled.

        Both will be out of office collecting their pension on the backs of voters and UAW members by the time the carnage they created sets in.

        Unions with the help of the NLRB, became an unstoppable force. They had the power to close any auto manufacturer. What was a CEO to do, give in to the demands, collect 1 million in salary, collect another 1 million in bonus, collect another 1 million in qualified stock options. Retire in 3 years keeping halve or 4.5 million of the 9 after taxes and move as far away from Detroit as possible. Possibly Aspen Colorado. No unemployed UAW workers in the Colorado mountains to throw rocks at their Lexus.

        What regulates the UAW and it’s demands which can not be controlled by auto manufacturing management? The free market controls the UAW. The free market, the American consumer is now buying cars/trucks from Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, BMW, Audi, VW. All being built by by workers in right to work states.

        Is is good? Is is bad? I have no real comment on it being good or bad but, I will make one general comment. That’s the way it is and the UAW is dying and cars/trucks are not being built in Detroit any longer.

  6. Rick says:


    I couldn’t agree more. The bailouts had nothing to do with an industry bailout and more to do with saving/paying back the powerful unions which brought a socialist to power in the US.

    Unions have become synonymous with power and have entrenched themselves in a political landscape that has nothing to do with “workers rights” anymore. Do you remember the fraud in the Wisconsin election and subsequent “recall?” debacle? When this was uncovered in the media, unions just added another nail in their own demise in the eyes of the public and contempt even in its own membership.

    I was in a union years ago and while it was pertinent for my own safety, I saw the fallout of union benefits such as the inability to fire some lazy sack for a poor work ethic or for criminal behavior (Remember the media sting uncovering drug and alcohol use at the Chrysler plant on lunch break?). I witnessed colleagues who couldn’t care less about their job, but their attitude affected my reputation. I was among some who worked hard for personal achievement for its own sake.

    GM should have been allowed to fail and would have rebounded in a much stronger company financially and would have turned out a better product in the free market without shorting the public of billions in unpaid “loans.” It was simply a union bailout.

    Knowing this regime is hostile to individual freedom, this congress just turns a bling eye to this outrageous conduct and a deaf ear to public outcry.

  7. Larry says:

    The UAW is still holding most of the cards. They just keep at it until they get the vote. Then they are there to stay. Unions are not removed once voted in. There are only two possibilities after that. The Union helps the process and helps to make it work or ———– the plant is closed. One day a new plant opens,,,,,,,, in Mexico.

    There is no real reason that the union idea can’t work out. It’s just that this one, the UAW can’t work. The workers just need to remove them and start over. What I would like to see is more than one union and workers could choose which one represents them and after that, they no long work for GM but rather are employed by the Union who then must take on responsibility which they don’t have now.

    Sadly, the NLRB has created a rigged game.

  8. Aaron says:

    The way I read this, government interfered by having a law requiring a union be present, likely a law created and endorsed by unions themselves (unions are usually the top ten political contributors in most major political races) as a protectionist scheme.

    So.. in order for VW to have a works council at the Chattanooga plant, they’d have to have their workers represented by a union. Said union would take dues from worker’s paychecks in exchange for allowing those workers to legally participate in a works council at the plant..

    I believe when the mafia does this, it’s called racketeering.

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