FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Volkswagen’s UAW Vote

by DAVID MACARAY

By now everyone has heard the disappointing news (among the adjectives used to describe it are “devastating” and “disastrous” and “crushing”) out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, where workers at a Volkswagen plant voted, by a margin of 712-626, to reject membership in the United Auto Workers (UAW). Volkswagen management remained neutral throughout the organizing campaign.

Granted, because hopes were running so high, no one is going to tell you this wasn’t a bitter defeat. Prior to the vote, Bob King, president of the UAW, had gone on record as saying that the key to the UAW’s continued existence (having once had 1.5 million members, the union is now down to approximately 380,000) was being able to organize the auto plants in the American South, and that this Chattanooga vote was an absolutely essential first step.

King deserved credit for not equivocating or resorting to those weasel words you hear politicians use whenever they receive bad news. I remember, during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, when Christopher Dodd learned that a recent opinion poll had placed him at an unprecedented zero-percent. Instead of weeping, he went on Meet the Press, and said with a big grin, “We’ve got a lot of room to grow.”

But disappointment aside, let’s take an objective look at what happened. First, this occurred in the Heart of Dixie, where only 50 years ago, African-Americans weren’t allowed to attend the same schools, eat at the same restaurants, or drink from the same water fountains as white people, and where anti-union sentiment was and still is a way of life. To southerners, the very word “union” (as in Union vs. Confederacy) dredges up bad memories. Trying to get a UAW plant down there was a monumentally ambitious undertaking.

Second, Tennessee’s governor, Bill Haslam, and its U.S. Senator, Bob Corker played dirty pool. They bombarded workers with histrionic, semi-legal threats, suggesting that if the UAW gained a foothold, Volkswagen would not only move its operations to Mexico, but no carmaker in the world would ever again set up shop in Tennessee. Those threats were both hysterical and deceitful. For one thing, Germany is heavily unionized; for another, every Volkswagen plant except this one is represented by a labor union.

And third, let’s look at the numbers. The vote was 712 to 626, with approximately 170 workers not even bothering to fill out ballots. It failed to pass by a mere 87 votes. If the abstainers had voted, or if only 45 people, out of more than 1,330 had voted the other way, the UAW would’ve won. That’s how close it was. That’s how close this Tennessee plant, right, smack in the Heart of Dixie, came to becoming a UAW facility.

Instead of seeing this as a devastating, disastrous and crushing defeat, the UAW should be encouraged by its remarkable showing against staggering odds. Some years ago I was tangentially involved in a certification vote at a manufacturing plant in Utah. Nearly 70-percent of the workers had filled out cards asking the NLRB to hold a union election. Even with 70-percent signing cards, the workers rejected the union. The final vote was 130 to 14. Now that’s “devastating.”

David Macaray is an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”).  dmacaray@earthlink.net

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail