Saturday, February 15, 2014

Say What? [Updated]

(Cartoon by Paul Fell and found here.  Click on image to enlarge.)

The Los Angeles Times quite surprised me by printing opinion columns on the Tennessee VW plant union vote on two consecutive days.  Both articles take essentially the same stance: against state Republicans who are appalled at the company's actually encouraging not only the vote, but also a vote for the union representation

From Michael Hiltzig's 2/12/14 column:

Reading the remarks of the state's GOP politicians is like a trip through cloud-cuckoo-land. Here's a statement sent to the Detroit Free Press by State Sen. Bo Watson of Chattanooga: "Volkswagen has promoted a campaign that has been unfair, unbalanced and, quite frankly, un-American in the traditions of American labor campaigns .... Should the workers choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe additional incentives for expansion will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate."

Apparently the "American" style of labor campaign is one in which the employer moves heaven and earth to intimidate workers and suppress their legal right to collective bargaining, not one in which the employer sees concrete benefits in a union presence on the factory floor.

The Republicans appear to be afraid that the UAW vote will eat into Tennessee's hard-earned as a right-to-work (read: anti-union) state. A UAW victory at Volkswagen, moreover, would be its first at a foreign-owned auto plant in the country. The politicians have expressed fears that other manufacturing companies will shun Tennessee if the UAW cracks open the door. [Emphasis added]

From Scott Martelle's 2/13/14 op-ed piece:

Thursday is the second of three days of a union-organizing vote at Volkswagen’s Tennessee auto assembly plant, and it’s being tracked like a congressional special election. Is it a bellwether for the state of modern labor? Or is it a one-off that says nothing of significance beyond the confines of the VW factory floor?

It’s a bit of both. The vote has attracted an extraordinary amount of outside interest and pressure, including misleading public billboards, bizarre claims on local talk-radio stations and a general frothing from the anti-union right that worker-management cooperation is the first step toward Stalinism. The organizing vote also seems to have brought out the worst in some Republican state politicians, who have threatened future financial help for VW projects if the United Auto Workers wins the election. As my colleague Jon Healey wrote Wednesday, that is an inappropriate threat.

But I go further: The politicians are wrong to oppose this (especially those who usually condemn government meddling in private business; why are they meddling now?). As is the Grover Norquist-led Americans for Tax Reform, which has been spending heavily to try to persuade the VW workers to remain unorganized (it’s mystifying what a private labor agreement has to do with tax reform). ... [Emphasis added]

The scramble by Republicans to thwart the vote for UAW representation by threatening the employer is appalling and reeks of the smell of fear:  not that other employers will stay away from Tennessee (a right-to-work-for-minimum-wage-and-no-benefits-or-protection state), but that workers just might catch on to the GOP's anti-worker stance and begin electing Democrats who will more adequately represent them.



The 712-626 vote (53%-47%) against unionization at the German automaker’s three-year-old factory in Chattanooga is a setback for UAW because labor experts had thought Volkswagen gave the union its best shot of setting a precedent to make inroads with transplants such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Nissan.  [Emphasis added]

I guess the GOP's interference worked, although this latest article does indicate the UAW will be appealing the results.

What a shame for Tennessee workers.

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