A Post Mortem look at the VW, UAW vote and the absurd spin of the winners

VW CWF pic2

The votes are in and yet another union is kept out. As comprehensively chronicled in Trevor LaFauci’s Saturday overview of the vote by workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant to establish a United Auto Worker’s union, UAW (and the workers) lost in a close vote. In a three-day, rancorous period of charges, propaganda and lies by the anti-union political forces of the “Volunteer” state, the likes of Grover Norquist’ latest organization, “Center for Worker Freedom” volunteered to erect a bunch of misleading and anti-union billboards urging rejection of the UAW overture.

LaFauci tells of billboard blame being heaped on UAW and Barack Obama.

A post-mortem of the vote reveals a continuance of anti-union deceit that started with not only Norquist. Just as the end-product of the Chattanooga factory line, the VW Passat, can spin it’s wheels, so can the right-to-work toadies, reveling in a victory mired in pure sleaze, spin a line designed to guarantee the defeat of any other auto plant union attempts. The line is so absurd, that reasonable people gag when they hear it. Get this! Workers voted against unionizing for two reasons: They were “Unwilling to risk the future of the plant.” Meaning that VW, the most union-friendly auto plant on the planet with every Volkswagen facility (out of 62) unionized with the exception of two in China and now one in the U.S., would immediately pick up stakes and move their Chattanooga operations elsewhere were UAW to win union approval.

The secondary spin coming out of the mouths of the anti-union puppets is that with a union presence, “WAGES WOULD GO DOWN!” No less a radical right-wing source than the CATO Institute recently bitched that the popularity of unions in the public sector was driving compensation UP. Here’s a quote from a CATO commentary piece by Chris Edwards entitled, “Public Sector Unions and the Rising Costs of Employee Compensation.” Edwards maintains that “Public sector compensation is becoming a high-profile policy issue. While private sector wages and benefits have STAGNATED during the recession, many governments continue to increase compensation for public sector workers.

And you know what Chris, CATO and Chattanooga? The wage disparities are because of the substantial presence of unions in the public sector. Period! But these are unsophisticated Tennessee workers you’re BS’ing and given the supermajority right-wing makeup (same-party Governor and majorities in the House and Senate) of Tennessee’s state government, it’s already proven that just enough of them will believe anything the Tea Party throws at them. Not all of them given the closeness of the vote, but “just enough of them.”

The primary political pre-vote anti-union voice belonged to Senator Bob Corker. The conservative Corker and his obviously well trained posse of local and state Republicans elected seals echoed the same line (probably emailed to them) simultaneously. In a News Conference, Corker revealed that Volkswagen was planning to build a midsize SUV at Chattanooga with the proviso that workers reject the union.

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam, the county delegation and the legislative leadership of the GOP repeated these words. Another legislative leader said it would be harder to get more incentives for an SUV line were a union to be approved. The fact is that VW had already announced its intention to build the SUV in either Mexico or Chattanooga. The politicians insist that an anti-union vote clinches it for Chattanooga. The union has now been rejected so there should be an immediate announcement from VW if the politicians were telling the truth. I’m waiting!

In any event, certain law professors have opined that the comments of Corker and other right-wing legislators might just be enough to force another election insofar as legally such statements are considered to be coercion and that, well, is not legal.

Tennessee won the mostly Deep South bidding for Volkswagen and this miserably poor state somehow found the money for over a half-billion in incentives and wonderfully generous tax breaks. Volkswagen took the Chattanooga Choo Choo to their new U.S. location. Fast forward roughly three years to February of 2014. The UAW rears its ugly (to manufacturers) head and announces an attempt to “GASP” unionize the Chattanooga plant. Bear in mind that our German friends were paying their workers a fraction of what unionized plants of the big three were paying.

As colleague LaFauci pointed out, leadership of the Chattanooga plant apparently had no problem with the presence of a UAW employee membership. At least that was the stance for public consumption. Let me get a tiny bit paranoid here but I suspect a little back-room chicanery could be in play here. There could have been a tacit agreement between the Right to Work (translation: hates unions) state of Tennessee and the so-called UAW-supporting German auto company.

A part of me is convinced Volkswagen was in deep, secret talks with the political power structure and gave the stop UAW campaign its full and enthusiastic blessing, union relationships with nearly 60 other plants notwithstanding. Why in the hell wouldn’t they? A fraction of union wages. Anything they want from a compliant legislature. VW Passats built for a song and sold at a great profit. Methinks VW is dipping their toes in the anti-union waters to possibly reverse course at some of their other facilities. Incidentally, a nearly identical version of the Passat built in Chattanooga is also built in a Chinese plant.

If there is perchance another union vote, state and national Democratic political voices should be heard at the highest decibels possible. Liberal media should be all over the second election. There should be union membership and union-backed marches on Chattanooga, the likes that haven’t been seen since Wisconsin. Yes, I realize the Madison demonstrations yielded little, but that doesn’t mean you give up. The private sector union membership now represents 6.7% of all workers. We’re at the point of a last gasp for unions.

Either civil holy hell breaks loose as in maybe rewarding companies that are forward-thinking enough to allow union shops, or unions should be replaced with another entity to represent worker interests in the private sector. As long as a Republican represents a district that hosts a manufacturing facility, fair play for the worker is not possible.

Maybe unions have run their course, but you can’t leave workers on the factory floors bereft of strong, meaningful, organized support and clout or, what is happening now will continue to happen. Embarrassing employee wages in a majority of corporations, no in-house sources of righting wrongs and a bunch of empty-headed, easily influenced legislators, lining their campaign coffers with radical anti-union PAC money. These Congresspeople and state legislators only care about their individual bottom lines and not one whit about the worker They’re the rule, not the exception, in the red states.

It starts with an overwhelming Democratic vote in 2014. The Progressives will take it from there.

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