Monday, February 17, 2014

Oh My, That's Going to Leave a Mark

A very unhappy Bob King /Photo credit Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

In efforts to try to stay relevant, the UAW recently tried to unionize the Chattanooga, TN Volkswagen plant. In theory, this should have been a slam dunk for the UAW, and experts were predicting their first win at an auto plant south of the Mason-Dixon line. 

President of the UAW Bob King’s optimism stemmed from the fact that VW vowed not to oppose unionization for its Tennessee plant. Further, according to King, over half of the1, 600 workers had signed cards indicating that they wanted the UAW to represent them last September

Unfortunately, the workers at the VW plant didn’t exactly see the need to unionize.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Bob King has pursued one goal above all as president of the United Automobile Workers — to unionize several foreign-owned auto plants in the South. He said he viewed that as pivotal if his once-mighty union was to gain numbers and strength after decades of decline.
The first step was to unionize the Volkswagen plant here, but Mr. King was stunned by the results of the unionization vote announced late Friday. In one of the most closely watched unionization elections in decades, the U.A.W. lost, with workers voting, 712 to 626, against joining the union.
King’s strategy was simple, get the low handing fruit like the VW plant then put pressure on Toyota, Nissan and the other 8 plants by showing just how wonderful a unionized plant is

This was a major blow for an already ailing American labor movement. Art Wheaton, an automotive industry expert at Cornell University’s Worker Institute, told the Los Angeles Times that the loss “significantly diminishes” the UAW’s chances at 10 other foreign-owned auto factories in the South. According to the Times, “since 2011, similar unionization efforts were launched at Nissan plants in Tennessee and Mississippi, Mercedes-Benz in Alabama and BMW in South Carolina.”
That’s going to be tough to overcome. Not only does this keep this plant union free, but demolishes King’s plan at other plants in the south. But the best part was King’s outrageous outrage over the loss.

“We are outraged that people in the political arena decided that they were going to threaten workers and that they were going to threaten the company,” Mr. King said. “The threats against the workers were what shifted things.”
Really, King is outraged that ‘People in the political arena were going to threaten workers’. You know because unions never threaten anybody. And they are never ever political. King blamed the defeat on local politicians who King said threatened workers that VW’s tax incentives would be revoked and abandoning plans for a second line at the plant if the union won.

But I think the bigger issue is not that the workers rejected the UAW, but why they did. Mike Burton an anti-union worker said that most people came to work at the VW plant specifically because it was non-union. So King says it was gerrymandering from the local politicians but the actual workers sing a different tune (emphasis mine):

After the votes were counted, Mike Burton and Mike Jarvis stood outside the VW plant wearing T-shirts with a line struck through the letters U.A.W. Mr. Jarvis said most workers had voted against the U.A.W. because they were convinced it had hurt Detroit’s automakers.
It appears that rather than giving the workers the benefit of the doubt and realizing that they voted in their own best self interest, the UAW is blaming everyone under the sun with the obvious exception of themselves.

So maybe, just maybe, the workers shunned the union because they want to keep their jobs, which are threatened NOT by the auto industry but by the strong-armed tactics of the union. Simply by taking a gander at what the UAW has managed to do to the industry up North was enough to convince the workers to reject UAW's outdated nonsense.

The bottom line is at the turn of the last century, unions' united support for individual rights was certainly needed. But the irony is that unions have become the very thing they used to be against - powerful, entrenched organizations more focused on self-preservation and pushing their political agenda than on protecting the rights of individual members. And yet they expect the workers to be lemmings and continue to feed the beast.

Welcome to the 21st Century Mr. King.

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