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

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Rick Baum
While Public Education is Being Attacked: An American Federation of Teachers Petition Focuses on Maintaining a Minor Tax Break
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The As-If Society
Cole A. Turner
Go Away, Kevin Spacey
Ramzy Baroud
70 Years of Broken Promises: The Untold Story of the Partition Plan
Binoy Kampmark
A New Movement of Rights and the Right in Australia
George Ochenski
Democratic Party: Discouraged, Disgusted, Dysfunctional
Nino Pagliccia
The Governorship Elections in Venezuela: an Interview With Arnold August
Christopher Ketcham
Spanksgiving Day Poem
November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail