FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

VW Workers Vote on Union, Works Council Scheme

by JANE SLAUGHTER

A win for the United Auto Workers at Volkswagen looks likely this week, as 1,550 workers vote on union representation Wednesday through Friday. The UAW had previously gathered a majority of pro-union signatures and management has made its approval clear.

Last week at joint meetings of VW management and UAW leaders with workers, management said, in effect, “We want you to have a works council, the only way to have one is to have a union, and the only union you can vote for is the UAW.” UAW Regional Director Gary Casteel then made a pitch.

But the vote takes place in a tense atmosphere in which Tennessee politicians, major media, and national anti-union groups are all urging a “no” vote. On Monday, State Senator Bo Watson of Chattanooga said a “yes” would lead the senate to turn down any additional subsidies to VW.

The National Right to Work Committee has helped anti-union workers to file charges trying unsuccessfully to block the vote, and the Center for Worker Freedom, a new project of right-wing gadfly Grover Norquist, has erected 13 billboards in the area.

Norquist’s group is going further than simply claiming the UAW will destroy Volkswagen jobs as it supposedly destroyed Detroit. (One billboard shows a picturesquely crumbling Detroit plant that was shuttered 55 years ago.) The website calls attention to what it calls the union’s liberal political stands, such as support for President Obama and for gun control. Obama won 39 percent of Tennessee’s vote in 2012.

“UAW wants your guns,” blares a headline. “As part of a larger strategy to change the political culture of the South, the UAW has already given large sums to politicians who favor strict gun control legislation, including in Tennessee and Alabama.”

Both Norquist and the Wall Street Journal are angry about what they call management help for the UAW. Norquist’s site complains:

“Sources tell the Center for Worker Freedom that United Auto Worker members are roaming at will through the halls of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant this afternoon.

“The union troops are reportedly walking up and down the aisles wearing black shirts with the UAW logo emblazoned across them in a clear effort to intimidate the employees.

“The union has reportedly been given safety glasses by the company so that they can fully access the production lines.”

Walking around in T-shirts, wearing safety glasses—this is a reign of terror?

Why is Management On Board?

VW headquarters in Germany has acceded to the UAW because the company’s Global Works Council, with representatives from factories around the world, has said U.S. workers should have a plant-level works council. At present the Tennessee factory is the only major VW plant without one.

Under German law, which requires works councils in many enterprises, a council’s explicit charge is to work for the interests of both workers and company, finding non-conflictual ways of dealing with new technologies, reorganization of jobs, and plant closings. Works council members are elected by non-management employees and paid by management. (See box.)

But that job description goes against U.S. labor law, which says management may not “dominate” a labor organization nor “contribute financial or other support to it.” A works council would be legally possible under U.S. law only if the workers involved also had their own independent representative: a union.

Ironically, the UAW’s organizing tactics at VW call that independence into question, politically if not legally. The union has repeatedly stressed that its goal is a stronger company, with resulting job security. President Bob King says he wants “innovative labor-management relations that benefits the company, the entire workforce, shareholders and the community.”

He consistently maintains that the union’s combative past is behind it and now says the cooperative “works council model is in line with the UAW’s successful partnerships with the domestic automakers and its vision of the 21st century union.” Those partnerships led the UAW to become an early adopter of the two-tier wage model, at the Big Three in 2007, and to give up pensions for new hires in that contract.

Works Council ‘Lite’

Pro-UAW workers at VW have said they want a works council in order to press the company to build a new SUV at their plant. They say that “voice” will aid them.

But any works council in Tennessee will be “lite”—it will not have the legal rights of works councils in Germany, where management is required to bargain with councils on some issues (not including wages, which, there and in the U.S., are the union’s purview). Any works council structure VW management comes up with will be purely voluntary.

Around the world, workers’ representation within VW’s local works councils varies widely, from the big national metalworkers union IG Metall in Germany to the state-controlled union in China.

As to the SUV, VW says it will sell a mid-size SUV in the U.S. within two years, but won’t say whether it will be built in the Tennessee plant or in its Mexican facility—which also has a works council. With a voice.

Jane Slaughter writes for Labor Notes, where this article originally appeared.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail