Daily Archives: June 17, 2019

LABOR HEADLINES-MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2019

I’M GOING TO SPEND SOME TIME TODAY TALKING ABOUT THE UNION ELECTION LOSS AT VOLKSWAGEN THIS PAST WEEK-END IN CHATTANOOGA, TN.
THERE’S LOTS OF LESSONS TO BE LEARNED, I THINK.
BUT FIRST SOME BACKGROUND.
VOLKSWAGEN IS HEADQUARTERED IN GERMANY WHICH HAS A NOTICEABLY DIFFERENT LEGAL RELATIONSHIP TO UNIONS. FOR EXAMPLE, 50% OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTOR POSITIONS ARE HELD BY WORKERS AND IN ADDITION TO UNION REPRESENTATION, PLANTS ARE GOVERNED BY WORK COUNCILS WHICH HAVE JURISDICTION OVER MORE DAILY MATTERS SUCH AS HOURS AND OVERTIME.
OF VOLKSWAGEN’S 45 GLOBAL PLANTS, 43 ARE UNIONIZED WITH CHATTANOOGA BEING THE LARGER OF THE TWO NON ORGANIZED FACILITIES.
THE UNITED AUTO WORKERS FILED FOR A UNION ELECTION IN 2014 WHEN THE COMPANY DECLARED THAT IT WOULD TAKE A ‘NEUTRAL” STANCE ON THE VOTE.
HOWEVER THE BUSINESS ELITE AND ELECTED POLITICIANS ENGAGED IN A FULL-SCALE ANTI-UNION CAMPAIGN THAT INCLUDED THREATS FROM THEN GOV. BILL HASLAM, SEN. BOB CORKER AND OTHERS WHO CLAIMED THAT THE PLANT WOULD CLOSE IF THE WORKERS VOTED TO HAVE A UNION. A NON-STOP PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN ENSUED WITH ROUND-THE-CLOCK ANTI-UNION RADIO AND TV ANNOUNCEMENTS, BILLBOARDS, NEWSPAPER ARTICLES ORCHESTRATED BY A TEAM OF UNION-BUSTING pr FIRMS PAID FOR BY NATIONAL ANTI-UNION FORCES.
THE UAW LOST BY 86 VOTES, 712 TO 626.
HOWEVER IN 2015, THE SKILLED TRADES WORKERS VOTED 108 TO 44 TO UNIONIZE.
VOLKSWAGEN WAS UNDER THE GUN FROM A SCANDAL INVOLVING FALSIFIED EMISSIONS CLAIMS THAT RESULTED IN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN FINES FOR VIOLATING CLEAN AIR STANDARDS.
A 2015 SURVEY SHOWED THAT THE CHATTANOOGA PLANT RANKED THE LOWEST OF ANY CAR PRODUCTION FACILITIES IN THE US AS FAR AS WAGES AND BENEFITS GO.
VOLKSWAGEN DROPPED ALL PRETENSE OF NEUTRALITY AND FOUGHT THE SKILLED TRADES WORKERS VOTE TO UNIONIZE, KEEPING IT TIED UP IN THE COURTS.
IN THE INTERVENING YEARS, WORKER DISCONTENT OVER INJURIES ON THE JOB, UNCERTAIN WORK SCHEDULES, INCREASED USE OF TEMP WORKERS AND OTHER GRIEVANCES GREW.
THE UAW FILED FOR ANOTHER ELECTION HAVING SECURED SIGNED CARDS FROM 65% OF THE WORKERS. THE ELECTION WAS PRORPOSED FOR THE END OF APRIL BUT THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD RULED THE ELECTION PETITION WAS TECHNICALLY MISFILED AND EXTENDED THE DATE OF THE VOTE TO JUNE 14. SINCE TRUMP’S ELECTION THE NLRB IS NOW CONTROLLED BY A MAJORITY OF ANTI-UNION MEMBERS.
ONCE AGAIN, THE FULL WEIGHT OF THE TOP STATE ELECTED OFFICIALS, GOVERNOR BILL LEE, HIS STAFF, CURRENT SENATOR MARSHA BLACKBURN, FORMER SEN. BOB CORKER’S AIDES AS WELL AS NATIONAL ANTI-UNION ENTITIES ENGAGED IN THE SAME BARRAGE OF MEDIA ADS, BIASED NEWS COVERAGE ETC.
HOWEVER, THIS TIME PLANT MANAGERS HANDED OUT ANTI-UNION FLYERS TO WORKERS, THE GOVERNOR CAME TO THE PLANT FOR A MANDATORY MEETING, THREATENING THAT STATE TAX CUTS AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT WOULD BE JEOPARDIZED IF WORKERS VOTED FOR THE UNION. WORKERS WEREN’T ALLOWED TO WEAR UNION STICKERS ON THEIR UNIFORMS OR PASS OUT LEAFLETS IN THE PARKING LOT. MANAGEMENT PASSED OUT ANTI-UNION T-SHIRTS TO WORKERS TO WEAR THE DAY OF THE VOTE.
VOLKSWAGON HAD EARLIER ANNOUNCED THAT IT WAS GOING TO ADD 1000 JOBS AND INVEST $80 MILLION IN ADDING AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE LINE
LITERALLY THE SAME PLAY BOOK HAS BEEN USED BY NISSAN BOSSES AND POLITICIANS IN MISSISSIPPI WITH GOVERNOR PHIL BRYANT AND WITH BOEING IN S.CAROLINA WITH NIKKI HALEY IN STARRING POSITIONS.
SO WHAT NOW? MY THOUGHT AND IT IS SOMETHING THAT WAS DISCUSSED AT A SOUTHERN WORKERS ASSEMBLY MEETING I WAS AT, IS THE IDEA OF GOING AHEAD AND FUNCTIONING LIKE A UNION ANYWAY. MEANING TAKING UP THE ISSUES THE WORKERS ARE FACING AND ENGAGING SOME FORMS OF COLLECTIVE ACTION LIKE GROUP GRIEVANCES IN THE FORM OF A PETITION OR TURNING THE SHIFT MEETINGS INTO MASS GRIEVANCE SESSIONS. THE IDEA BEING IF WORKERS CAN SEE THE POWER THEY HAVE WHEN ACTING TOGETHER, IT HELPS SHOW WHAT A UNION CAN DO TO NEGOTIATE A CONTRACT THAT CONTAINS THEIR RIGHTS TO CHALLENGE MANAGEMENT.
I ALSO THINK UNION ORGANIZING IN THE SOUTH HAS TO TAKE ON CHARACTERISTICS OF MOVEMENT ORGANIZING, MEANING PUBLIC RALLIES AND MEETINGS, ENLISTING A WIDE VARIETY OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS AND LEADERS TO SPEAK OUT IN SUPPORT OF THE WORKERS, LOOKING FOR PRESSURE POINTS WITH VOLKSWAGEN CORPORATE LEADERSHIP INTERNATIONALLY, AND ORGANIZING AT THE PARTS PLANTS THAT SUPPLY THE ASSEMBLY LINE FACILITY. COULDN’T UAW LOCALS OF ACTIVE AND RETIRED MEMBERS PLAYED A ROLE, HAVING A VISIBLE PICKET LINE AT VOLKSWAGEN DEALERS IN THEIR AREA OR EVEN HOLDING A PUBLIC RALLY IN THEIR CITY, DENOUNCING THE COERCION OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS ACTING ON BEHALF OF MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATION’S PROFITS RATHER THAN THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS.
AS A 30 YEAR VETERAN OF AUTO ASSEMBLY LINES, I CANNOT IMAGINE HOW DIFFERENT MY OWN WORK LIFE AND CERTAINLY MY RETIREMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN IF I HAD NOT HAD THE PROTECTION OF A UNION CONTRACT.
THIS TIME THE MARGIN OF LOSS  WAS 57 VOTES.  WHATEVER PROMISES VOLKSWAGEN MADE TO IMPROVE SAFETY, REDUCE UNEXPECTED OVERTIME AND GET RID OF SOME BAD MANAGERS, THE REAL TRUTH IS UNTIL WORKERS ORGANIZE  AND HAVE A CONTRACT THAT GUARANTEES THEIR RIGHTS AND THEN DEFEND IT WITH ACTION, ALL BOSSES’ PROMISES TO WORKERS ARE LAST ON THE LIST AND  MAKING MORE PROFIT AT THE TOP.
Dianne
%d bloggers like this: