UAW Big Loss in Tennessee

After a big loss in Tennessee, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is left wondering, what went wrong? The Tennessee vote was a shoe in, everything was pointing for a yes vote on Friday, and then suddenly they lost. Now the union is back to the drawing table; they were sure that a win in Tennessee would help the union get a foothold in the south, a part of the country that has been a struggle.

After the bankruptcy in the north, the union had to devise a new plan that would guarantee its survival. Suddenly they were working with companies rather than against them. Yet some experts agree this might be the wrong tact. Now it seems workers might think that it is the union and the company against the workers. At least that is what some are speculating led to the loss in Tennessee. The union had sat down and discussed with the company first a way to guarantee a yes vote, and employees worried that it would mean a cap on their salaries, some even speculated that they would be taking a pay cut by joining the union rather than a raise.

The UAW is blaming a big smear campaign led by Grover Norquist and Republicans for the loss in Tennessee. The car company on the other hand is hopeful; they do not see a no vote as a problem. Gunnar Kilian, the secretary-general of VW made the statement that the results have not affected the company’s overall goal of making a works council at their plant in Chattanooga. He went on to say that there has been a lot of talk from the employees at the plant to have a works council even if that means no union representation. Right now in the United States in order for a plant to have a works council they must go through a union.

According to the Wall Street Journal there is no provision in U.S. law that allows for the type of German Work Council that is made up of employees elected by the work force. This type of council, which is used at all of the VW plants in Germany, gives workers a say in everything including hiring and firing staff and plant operations. The only other plants that do not have this type of representation are the ones in China.

Killian and a work council official from Wolfsburg are set to fly to the U.S. next week to meet with labor law experts in order to find a loophole in the law that prevents the council from being established without union representation. Meanwhile, according to the Daily Press the UAW may look at challenging the vote in Tennessee. The UAW President citing interference from Republican politicians suggested that there may be a challenge to the vote based on tactics used by those opposed to the plants unionization.

Tennessee has long been known for its anti-union stand and some suggest that was part of the reason that the Chattanooga plant was first opened. Julius Getman a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin said that if companies like Toyota and Honda built factories in the US and challenged the unions hold then it could change the fate of unions. This big loss in Tennessee could be a death-blow to the UAW as it prepares for other votes in the upcoming months.

By Rachel Woodruff

Washington Post
Daily Press
Wall Street Journal