Volkswagen built at the Chattanooga plant. Photo Larry Miller
Workers get to choose at Chattanooga
Hopefully you won’t have forgotten the massive campaign that the US car workers’ union UAW ran earlier this year with German equivalent IG Metall’s support to establish the first ever Works Council in the USA (and the first union recognition deal at a foreign-owned car plant in a right-to-work southern state.)
Massive pressure from right-wing politicians and institutions funded by the “1%ers” (ie the very rich, who don’t want their wealth and privileges eroded by any pesky unions) resulted in a narrow defeat in a ballot at the VW plant (just 86 votes out of 1338 voters.) As an example of the pressure applied, a local conservative “think” tank, the Beacon Center, has effectively said it didn’t want new jobs in Tennessee if they were union jobs and is calling on the government to refuse to give VW any financial incentives if union efforts move forward!
The union appealed the result, lodging a complaint about how the ballot had been influenced, but that complaint has been withdrawn as the UAW and VW management have reached agreement on an alternative route to recognition.
A new UAW local (ie branch) has been established just to represent Chattanooga VW members, and if it recruits sufficient members in the plant, VW management have pledged to recognise the union and then set up a Works Council (under the restrictive US labor laws it’s not possible to do it the other way around as we can in the UK and the rest of Europe, and where Works Councils have provided the foot in the door that allows unions to build a presence – and influence – before seeking recognition.)
So workers at the VW Chattanooga plant have another chance to choose twice to get the union representation their fellow VW workers have everywhere else in the world. Yes, a Chattanooga choose-choose (I just couldn’t resist!)