When Republicans campaigned for the 2010 midterm elections, their rallying cry was focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs, and after winning control of the House began the 112th Congress on a job-killing spree that has not abated one iota. In fact, when told the Republican House’s first round of austerity cuts would kill about a million jobs, new Speaker John Boehner said, “So be it;” decimating jobs has been their sole priority and achievement over the past three years. Boehner and Republicans claim that their job-creation strategy is “getting government out of the way” that they assure Americans is what businesses want to begin a hiring spree unlike any seen in decades, but they belied their own strategy over the past few weeks and killed more good-paying manufacturing jobs because they “got in the way” of a business planning to expand.
Last week workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga Tennessee voted against union representation after a Republican Senator, Republican governor, Grover Norquist, and Republicans in the state legislature as well as an anti-worker organization used fear and threats targeting Volkswagen to affect the outcome of the vote. Republicans celebrated their handiwork that Matt Patterson of the Center for Worker Freedom, an anti-labor group, compared to the Confederate army beating back an “invading union force from the North.” However, what they accomplished was raising the ire of Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg-based (Germany) works council that reacted negatively to the Republicans’ interference and said the 20-member works council will block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.
The Germans were undeterred by last Friday’s vote and said Volkswagen’s works council will press on with efforts to set up labor representation at the Chattanooga plant that builds the Passat sedan. The head of Volkswagen’s works council and powerful supervisory board, Bernd Osterloh, was blunt when he said, “If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south. I can imagine fairly well another VW factory in the United States, but it does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again.”
German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined “co-determination” principle which is anathema to Republicans who view organized labor as an existential threat to profits and job growth; their interference and threats jeopardized good paying job growth in Tennessee and the former Confederacy. Osterloh asserted that “The conservatives stirred up massive, anti-union sentiments, and it’s possible that the conclusion will be drawn that this interference amounted to unfair labor praxis (practices).” Volkswagen’s works council called for neutrality before the vote and requested that there was not an effort to discourage unionization. Volkswagen CEO Frank Fischer promised that Volkswagen would leave the decision up to the workforce and pledged the company “is committed to neutrality and called upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”
There was never a fight between workers attempting to unionize and the company, it was a fight between workers attempting to unionize and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Republican Governor Haslam, anti-government crusader Grover Norquist, the Center for Worker Freedom, and Tennessee State Republicans. Governor Haslam and the Republican legislature threatened Volkswagen that if employees embraced unionization, the Republican-controlled legislature would vote against approving future incentives to help the auto-maker expand in Tennessee. State Republican senator Bo Watson said, “The members of the Tennessee Senate will not view unionization as in the best interest of Tennessee,” and levied a threat that “if the Volkswagen employees vote for union representation it will be exponentially more challenging for the legislature to approve any future incentives for expansion.” Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a staunch opponent of unionization, waded in to assist state Republicans and lied last Wednesday after the first day of voting and said that “VW would award the factory another model if the UAW was rejected.” Maybe Corker fails to understand how business works, at least European business, because the Volkswagen works council determines if Volkswagen awards the factory another model and any such award to build another Volkswagen model will not be at the Tennessee plant or anyplace in the South thanks to Republican interference and threats to thwart any future expansion. Thanks to Republicans, expansion is an issue Tennessee Volkswagen workers will never have to look forward to now. Interestingly, President Obama attempted to help workers and future expansion by intervening and accusing Republicans of trying to block the Chattanooga workforce’s efforts. Republicans should have heeded the President’s wise council because in blocking the workforce’s efforts at creating a works council at the Chattanooga plant, they blocked expansion for Tennessee and the entire southern United States.
Republicans Watson, Corker, Haslam, and anti-American fascist Norquist will not have to worry about following through on their threats because according to Volkswagen’s German works council, they have no intention of expanding in Tennessee, or any other southern state. Even if the Chattanooga plant does vote for a European-style works council, it appears the company is unlikely to forget the Republican threats to block expansion plans and will instead go to a state friendly to business and manufacturing. The South is notorious for “right to work” for less laws that make it next to impossible for workers to embrace union representation. Republican anti-unionization efforts may work well for American companies, but Volkswagen is not an American company and they place a high value on their unionized workforce to the point they give them a powerful determining voice in the direction of the company; a direction that will be not be in the South.
Republicans boast their advocacy for non-governmental intervention in business and champion free enterprise, but the hypocrites take a different position if union representation is in question. Their fear and loathing of a unionized works council drove them to use scare tactics, blatant lies, and threats to prevent “employees” in the former Confederacy from voting for union representation, and in doing so they helped Volkswagen decide that expanding in Tennessee or the southern United States was not an option. Republicans have been killing existing and prospective jobs for over three years to great effect, and by interfering with a worker vote and threatening Volkswagen they continued their job-killing frenzy; at least in the South. Although Republicans participated in another defeat for the Confederacy, they ensured a victory for a manufacturing-friendly state that will certainly be well north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.