The VW worker unionization vote was the dirtiest union election of the 21st Century and all the dirty tactics were coming from outside anti-union political forces. Without the intimidation and lies of elected Tennessee Republicans along with billionaire financed national Right Wing groups, the union would have won the union representation vote.
Outside groups financed by extremist Right Wing billionaires put up emotionally charged smear campaign billboards blaming the United Auto Workers (UAW) for the decline of the automobile industry in Detroit. These are false charges. Labor costs in total are a very tiny portion of the cost of cars and trucks.
The truth is that trade policy and poor management decisions concerning the types of vehicles built are mostly responsible for the long-term problems and the decline of Detroit.
The most recent crisis that required the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler was the direct result of the collapse of Wall Street and the biggest banks. Sales collapsed because the financing of new car purchases collapsed. Unions certainly played no role in the creation of this crisis. Unions did play a huge role in saving both companies. If either failed, it would have taken Ford down with it since the auto parts suppliers to all companies would have gone out of business. The entire American economy would have gone into another Great Depression. The Wall Street/banking crisis was caused by poor regulation of that industry and abuses by Wall Street/banking insiders. Who pushed thru the deregulation of Wall Street and the banking industry? The answer is mostly Republican politicians and Right Wing billionaire financed organizations like those putting up the anti-union, smear billboards in Chattanooga to defeat the VW unionization vote.
The same Right Wing billionaire groups and Republican politicians (along with some corporatist elected Democrats) largely pushed thru the bad trade policy that created the serious decline of Detroit and the relative decline of the Big Three American automakers.
The irony that those forces who ideas and actions who undermined the American auto industry were blaming the industry’s unionized workers was completely lost on the Tennessee and national media. Nobody seemed to be covering this situation at all. They still are not discussing it.
Another barely covered aspect of the situation is that Republican officeholders used the power of their offices to interfere in this election. The only parties who should have been involved were the workers and the company. VW actually seemed to want the workers to join the UAW. VW has very good relationships with their workers all over the world. They wanted to bring their Worker Council model to the United States to help all American companies and workers establish better cooperation in all workplaces. The UAW was very supportive. The Worker Council model is a huge success and has VW become the international success story that it is.
The Worker Council models, like traditional unions, bring an element of democracy into the workplace. Those forces opposing it are also behind voter suppression laws and actions all over America in our elections to government offices. Their efforts and tactics mirror their actions in these other arenas. They are not friends of democracy in America in government or the economy.
Elected Republicans in Tennessee wanted this model defeated because they profit in terms of campaign donations by the bad worker-employer labor relations situation in the United States. These Republican politicians saw that good labor relations might be good for the nation but would be very bad for them. They went to war with both VW and the UAW just to retain their political power in Tennessee and nationally.
They threatened to pull tax breaks to the manufacturing plant if the workers voted in the union. This was extremely anti-business! The Tennessee politicians and the state government had no business getting involved in this unionization vote. Their actions were completely corrupt and should have been illegal. Governor Haslam and Senator Corker would be facing jail time in a more just society. Their actions are certainly abuses of power not unlike those of the Governor Christie political machine in New Jersey in my opinion. Of course, we are not seeing the media make the same kind of comparison. Threatening tax breaks already granted for blatantly politically partisan reasons certainly seems to need federal investigation by the US Department of Justice.
Statements by Senator Corker about the future product lines from VW seem to be outright lies. They were directly denied by company spokespersons. He claimed that a vote for the union would result in new models going to other plants and seemingly that his information came from top VW management sources. He has not said who those sources are.
It appears those lies and the threats worked on just enough workers to defeat the unionization vote this time. If the media had fully explored the situation and explained the tactics, the outcome would have been very different in my opinion. I hope they will at least get it right after the fact but I believe their class based bias against unions makes that less than certain.
I do hope the federal governments does investigate and prosecute the Republican officeholders who abused their offices to thwart a free and fair unionization vote at the VW plant in Chattanooga.
Stephen Scott Crockett is a business owner (College Marketing.com, talk show host (Democratic Talk Radio) and union activist. He can be reached by cell phone at 443-907-2367 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.