Employees at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee have rejected joining the United Automobile Workers union in a major defeat for organized labor in the South.There are any number of ways to interpret this result:
The workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga voted 712-626 to stay out of the union after a lobbying fight in which Republican politicians warned unionization could lead Volkswagen and automobile companies to leave the state.
- The UAW isn't exactly dealing from a position of strength these days and it's become quite clear that the major U.S. automakers are struggling precisely because of their labor issues.
- Having said that, the vote was close enough that the UAW will be back.
- Things in Chattanooga have improved greatly in recent years, while things in Detroit are about as bad as they've ever been. If you were in Chattanooga, would you want to be like Detroit? That's how a lot of people were seeing the matter.
- If unionization were to happen at all in the southern auto plants, Volkswagen was the place it would, because trade unionism is strong in Europe and the steel union in Germany has seats on the VW board. As a result, VW let the union folks have pretty much free rein through the plant in the organizing drive. The other automakers in the region, including Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai, won't make it as easy for the UAW to get a foothold.