UAW Looks to Southern U.S. Plants, Essential for Existence

Having recently entered talks with Volkswagen about unionizing its new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United Auto Workers believes the American South is a key region for regaining influence in the auto industry, according to Reuters. Although it’s had no success organizing so-called transnational automakers such as Nissan and Hyundai, which have plants in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, the UAW sees Volkswagen as a foot in the door for winning over the predominantly anti-union workforce of the South.

Director of UAW Region 8 Gary Casteel resonates the belief of UAW President Bob King that winning votes in the South, where most of the nonunion plants are located, is crucial for the union’s future success. Casteel says that Volkswagen is the latest target for the UAW, which began talks with VW employee representatives earlier this week. The German automaker may be more open to the UAW’s proposal, as it has experience dealing with union workers represented by German labor union IG Metall in its home country. In past speeches, King has cited the “German example” as a way to approach his proposed less adversarial relationship with the Detroit Three, as that would include having union representation on the boards of those automakers.

Harley Shaiken, labor professor at the University of California-Berkley, calls this idea “unprecedented,” as it involves interaction with company executives -- allowing the UAW a chance to make its case to management about the benefits of unionizing. Board representation could be a point that comes up when the union sits down with each of the three major U.S. automakers later this month to negotiate new four-year agreements. But Shaiken sees winning VW and other foreign automakers as a bigger step for the union, suggesting that courting the Detroit Three is not what the UAW should focus on in the grander scheme of things.

“Simply put, if [the UAW] is bargaining for the three Detroit automakers, that is an increasingly smaller share of the pie in the U.S., even if that stabilizes or grows,” Shaiken said.

King himself has said in the past that gaining ground with foreign automakers will be vital to the union’s survival, saying, “If we don’t organize the transnationals, I don’t think there is a long-term future for the UAW.”

After failing to organize every other transplant automakers’ factory workers, including those of Japanese auto giant Toyota, success at VW’s Chatanooga plant would set a precedent for unionizing Southern auto labor -- possibly influencing other factories in the region. Talks between the UAW and Volkswagen remain ongoing.

Source: Reuters

Phil
If VW has learned nothing from the UAW's role in the collapse of GM, and its effect on the other companies of the big 3, then they deserve to see that same effect on their business in the US. If VW doesn't realize why the UAW "failed to organize every other transplant automakers’ factory workers", then they really aren't paying attention.
Ray
... I'm sure cheap labor costs and no benefits has nothing to do with that. Sure, crap all over unions as the cause of the problems in the US auto industry. The reliability and design issues of the once-big three have all been proven to be at the level of poor management and engineering-two groups not in the UAW. A post-2008 analysis on GM by all the experts does not have major issues with the union, as much as massively overpaid management, and far too much management, making bizarre business decisions. There are many successful car companies worldwide that have unionized assembly workers. Strangely, none of them pay their CEOs as much as Detroit.
Scott
The UAW is a labor cartel and monopoly. When the UAW basically controlled all auto workers, they had a monopoly. Now if that same monopoly existed on the other side, the owners side, we wouldnt tolerate it. If a small town had only 5 gas stations and all 5 were controlled by the same guy, we would break it up because of the need for competition in the marketplace. Yet we've allowed the UAW to have a monopoly in Detroit on labor. Need to break up the UAW like we would break up any monopoly. And when you have a monopoly whose #1 priority is the elimination of secret ballots in elections, forcing independent day care business owners into government unions despite the fact theyre not government employess, then this just shows the character of these union lowlifes. VW can agree all it wants. I used to live in Tennessee and know that theyre Americans down there, tried and true. And since no member of any union, especially the UAW, can claim with a straight face to be an American, the UAW will lose this election by a landslide.
Steve
If Volkswagen is stupid enough to unionize their new plant. Then this is my last VW
JJ
In my opinion, unions have transformed into a group of people that can hurt the business owner. That is why in the Philippines, companies (even multinational ones) are brutal in their crackdown of unions or if they don't do that, they force all employees to join the company-sponsored one. It actually hurts the company and the union members' employment because of the many problems that will arise from the contract and the heavy-handedness of these unions.
Ray
I've worked in the auto industry, on the shop floor, and dealt with the utter stupidity of having to deal with unionized employees and their beloved union. I've also worked in Germany in IG Metall shops. They are nearly as bad. The difference being the union contracts are not full of nonsense and the employees take doing a good job seriously. But, they are still a big impediment to getting anything that's not plainly spelled out in their precious contract done. VAG knows what unions are all about and I can't imagine they will be supportive. While I could care less if employees have employment contracts, they should never be so broad as to frustrate the simple management of a company.

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