Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga will soon be deciding whether or not to unionize. Governor Lee recently made a trip over there to encourage them not to, and was loudly booed for his efforts.
Here’s a good article about the situation and the tactics employed by management by Chris Brooks, who covers union issues:
Managers have handed out flyers tying the UAW to plant closures. In a captive-audience meeting, CEO Frank Fischer implied that the UAW was to blame for the 1988 closure of a Volkswagen plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.
This week Jorg Hoffman, chair of IG Metall and Deputy chair of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board, sent a message of support to the Volkswagen workers encouraging them to unionize and reprimanding VW Chattanooga’s management for allowing anti-union lawyers to continue to try to influence the process.
“Chattanooga’s management has the clear directive from headquarters in Germany to stay neutral in the election,” Hoffman says. “I am really disappointed management has not been neutral. They have been neutral verbally, but their actions have been the opposite.”
Hoffman goes on to say that anti-union lawyers were ordered away from the plant, but that they continue to advise management off-site.
“We denounce the use of fear in this campaign by Chattanooga management,” he says, adding that “voting yes will not endanger your plant or your jobs” and that all over the world unions and management are working trustfully together.”
Hoffman makes a good point. Here in America, unions have been under attack for decades by management and the politicians they control. But in other countries, like Germany, for instance, workers have seats on the boards of companies, and therefore have a say in the direction of the company’s.
The relationship is therefore far less adversarial, as workers feel ownership, participate in the good times as well, and make concessions during the bad.
Many Germans attribute this arrangement to Germany’s economic success. Imagine that – unions being empowered and appreciated rather than attacked and dismantled.
The numbers don’t lie – unions and the middle class go hand in hand. The union authorization election runs Wednesday through Friday this week; 1,700 workers are eligible to vote.
“I’m only 33 and I can’t see myself working here for another 10 years,” said Ashley Murray. “I would be disabled by then. We need a union because they are a multibillion-dollar company and they treat us like shit.”
Murray is a production employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of 18 hourly employees there I interviewed for this story. Comments like hers were almost universal.
Volkswagen was wooed to Chattanooga in 2008 with a $554 million subsidy package from the state and local governments… It was the largest taxpayer handout ever given to a foreign-owned automaker up to that moment, and remains the largest subsidy deal in Tennessee history. The deal came free of any job or investment requirements.
More from Labor Notes on the conditions at VW:
The current starting wage for a production worker at the factory is $15.50 an hour and pay tops out at $23 an hour, or around $48,000 per year without overtime.
Volkswagen provides the lowest pay and benefits of any automaker in the U.S., according to a 2015 report by the Center for Automotive Research.
If you agree Governor Lee and Chattanooga management should keep their hands off the election – and others in the future – Holler at him HERE.