Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Sen. Corker Outs Himself as a Lying Dirt Bag on Unions


Know how southern Republican politicians who support “right to work” laws claim they’re not against unions as such — just against closed shop contracts that force workers to join a union as a condition of employment? They’re liars. The negative outcome of the recent UAW certification vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga proves that, if you needed any more proof.

Since Tennessee is a “right to work” state, the VW plant would have been an open shop — even if a majority of workers voted to unionize, nobody would have had to join the union or pay dues unless they wanted to. Plus, the Volkswagen corporation itself favored unionization and the creation of the first German-style works council at an American auto plant. They realize, like other employers who aren’t stupid enough to eat paint chips, that higher productivity-based wages, job security and worker participation in planning the production process are all good ways of building worker confidence and thereby eliciting cooperation in increasing productivity.

But who cares, when a Sun Belt Republican’s instinctive hatred of unions is involved? Enter US Senator Bob Corker, who exerted every bit of political influence at his disposal to to blackmail and intimidate VW workers into rejecting unionization. In one hand, he held out the carrot: “I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga.” In the other, he (and other GOP leaders in Tennessee) waved the stick: He warned that, if Chattanooga workers went union, Tennessee might take back all the “business incentive” subsidies it had used to entice VW to open a plant in that state.

So the message was loud and clear: Union employers — even voted in with the encouragement of management, and with entirely voluntary open-shop membership — aren’t welcome in Tennessee. If your business goes union, we’ll punish you.

And as it turns out, Volkswagen is actually less likely to build another plant in the American right-to-work south because of the anti-union vote. VW corporate policy mandates works councils at all their plants. The head of the company works council said that, after the vote in Chattanooga, it was unlikely that any new VW plants in the United States would be built in a right-to-work state.

So regardless of what lying dirtbags like Corker may say at times, they really just flat-out hate unions. The southern GOP is the party of sweatshop employers, who’d like to turn the entire U.S. into a good ol’ boy-dominated, “right to work” banana republic just like Tennessee.

What’s more, when Red State politicians claim to favor “right to work” laws because they want to attract good-paying jobs to the state, they’re also lying. But I’d already known this for a long time. Back in the ’90s, the new Belgian-owned Bekaert plant in the neighboring city of Rogers, Arkansas paid European union-scale wages to local workers. Other Rogers employers complained to the mayor that they couldn’t compete with such high wages; in response, he quietly leaned on Bekaert to lower wages.

So the Republican claim to favor free markets (which include the freedom of management and labor to negotiate union shop contracts), and their populist pose of supporting the little guy against the “union bosses,” are both a lot of hooey.

Of course, if the GOP is the party of provincial elites — the Sun Belt country club set — it’s nevertheless true that “progressive” Democrats and establishment unions also represent their own wing of the corporate ruling class. The New Deal coalition and its labor accord originally represented the interests of large, capital-intensive, export-oriented manufacturers. Because they followed a capital-intensive production model, wages were a relatively modest part of their total cost package. And because of their long-term planning horizons and need for predictability, they were extremely vulnerable to disruption by wildcat strikes, slowdowns, and other forms of direct action on the job. So it was entirely in their interest to provide relatively high wages, job security and a grievance process in return for coopting the union establishment to enforce contracts on the rank-and-file and prevent wildcatting.

So what’s the answer? Workers in Chattanooga can still unionize without a certification vote or permission from the NLRB. They can still organize in solidarity and undertake direct action on the job — and they can do it in ways that neither VW corporation nor Bob Corker will like very much at all. Workers formed unions and engaged in direct action — far more effectively — long before the Wagner Act, and they still can. Just Google “IWW” and “How to Fire Your Boss: A Worker’s Guide to Direct Action on the Job.”

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society ( and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society ( and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases