In a replay of five years ago, the UAW lost elections at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA. Union activists say that right wing politicians, pressure groups, the company and union busting law firms invested all they could to prevent the IndustriALL affiliate from winning the union elections.
In the end, the difference between a unionized workplace and one without real worker representation was narrow: 833 employees voted against union representation and 776 in favor, a difference of a mere 29 votes.
For nine weeks, VW employees were told that a yes vote meant not only a severe threat of job losses, but also economic decline for the state of Tennessee and the entire US South. (New VW SUV Goes to Chattanooga. UAW forms a Local. Further State Subsidies in Anti-Union South in Doubt?)
“VW workers endured a system where even when they voted, the company refused to bargain,” said Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the UAW. “Clearly Volkswagen was able to delay bargaining with maintenance and ultimately this vote among all production and maintenance workers through legal games until they could undermine the vote.”
The UAW called on Congress to review US laws. “Our labor laws are broken,” said Rothenberg. “Workers should not have to endure threats and intimidation in order to obtain the right to collectively bargain. The law doesn’t serve workers, it caters to clever lawyers who are able to manipulate the NLRB process.”
The UAW and the global union were more optimistic this time around than in 2014, but the bullying tactics of the massive anti-union movement in southern US thwarted the latest attempt. (IndustriALL Pressures Volkswagen Group to Engage with UAW or Else Face Suspension of its Global Contracts)
The irony is that Union-busting propaganda is not only unacceptable, but also rare in the world of Volkswagen where 121 out 122 global manufacturing sites are unionized, and collective bargaining and social dialogue are a natural part of the daily proceedings. But for many years, Volkswagen in the US has been aggressively anti-union, and pays large sums of money to union-busting law firms instead of investing in employees and products. And in the run-up of these elections, VW was anything but neutral.
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, said, “We were so close to a victory and we will continue to stand with our colleagues at VW Chattanooga. We will not let these systematic anti-union policies win. IndustriALL Global Union strongly condemns this behavior and stands by the decision to suspend the global framework agreement with Volkswagen in January this year, as a strong sign of protest.”