Workers at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee have voted against union representation in a devastating defeat for the United Auto Workers union’s effort to make inroads in the South.
The 712-626 vote released late Friday was surprising for many labor experts and union supporters who expected a UAW win because Volkswagen tacitly endorsed the union and even allowed organizers into the Chattanooga factory to make sales pitches.
“This is like an alternate universe where everything is turned upside down,” Cliff Hammond, a labor lawyer at in Detroit, told The Wall Street Journal, noting that companies usually fight union drives.
“This vote was essentially gift-wrapped for the union by Volkswagen,” said Hammond, who previously worked at the Service Employees International Union.
The setback is a major defeat for the UAW’s effort to expand in the growing South, where foreign automakers have 14 assembly plants, eight built in the past decade, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Michigan.
I wonder how many VW workers in Tennessee remember this photograph of a union member beating down a Right To Work supporter during Michigan’s Right to Work vote in 2012?
A win would have marked the first time the union has been able to organize a foreign-owned auto plant in a Southern U.S. state, and would have been particularly meaningful, because the vote was set in a right-to-work state in the South, where antiunion sentiment is strong and all past UAW organizing drives at automobile plants have failed.
The Chattanooga workers had been courted steadily for nearly two years by both the UAW and the IG Metall union, which pushed Volkswagen management to open talks with the UAW and to refrain from trying to dissuade American workers from union representation.
Also from the WSJ, an interesting point:
Other UAW opponents said they dislike the union’s support of politicians who back causes like abortion rights and gun control that rub against the conservative bent of Southern states like Tennessee. Still others objected to paying dues to a union from Detroit that is aligned with Volkswagen competitors like GM and Ford.
Very interesting point.