“All is Lost” or Not for UAW? – How Now to Be the Comeback Kids

vw-announcementThe Situation: The UAW lost the vote to unionize the VW Passat plant in Chattanooga.

By how much did they actually lose? Really on by 86 votes which means if 44 workers changed their vote in favor of the union, the UAW would be “in the plant” and back on the American labor scene.

More to realize & know: 165 workers declined to vote. What if the vote would have been compulsory? Why did they not participate?  After all, they had 3 days to cast a vote.

Why Did the UAW lose?

1. Detroit Syndrome – The anti-union theme was that Chattanooga would become another Detroit if the union got in, and that the union was really responsible for much of the Detroit OEMs going into bankruptcy.

2. VW Worker Mentality – Most VW workers in Chattanooga feel that they’re being well-paid and given respect. Some felt that the union would bring conflict and confrontation to a new plant that has created jobs in Tennessee. Also some talk that the union was making false promises. And, oh, the South is supposed to be anti-union, ironically.

3. Political Pressure:  Seems that nearly every senator, representative, and city  official (most of whom are Republicans, btw) encouraged or supported an anti-union vote.

4. Outside Campaign Money – Gordon Norquist and another front organization for the Koch Brothers funded and erected 13 billboards on the streets of Chattanooga, designed to scare, influence, and buy public opinion – including workers driving to the plant every day. This kind of intervention with money into corporate-union affairs has more dangerous implications than the “Ball of Money” that will be coming into the forthcoming congressional and presidential elections.

So, What the UAW Should Do Now to Create New Worker-Owners?

  1. Union Organizing – Stop seeking votes to unionize. Rather start working with workers and “owners” [OEMs, and big dealers BTW, too] to deal with the real reasons for the union and union vote in the first place. All worker communication via Facebook, Twitter, and texting should be to educate and involve workers with the economics, the global automotive market, and their role in the production of passenger cars and trucks.
  2. Works Councils – Immediately start working with VW management to introduce and establish German style Works Councils at the VW plant and in the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama. Make these Work Councils the new American work model that will bring true “union” to the company and its worker team.
  3. Create ESOPs– Yes, the time for Employee Stock Ownership Plans is back and working.  Several innovative dealerships are now getting their employees involved, committed, and owning a piece of the action.
  4. Find Visionary Corporate Leaders: It is time for corporate America to deal with the total employee management issues that are holding the country back – from wages to health care, to retirement portfolios and working conditions. This would solve the issue of worker productivity, participation, and commitment to the same ends as the CEO and the management team. Share the returns, the risk, and real reasons why dealer principals and bonused OEM management are actually successful right now.

Hello, America: Is the role of the American worker “lost” and does the outcome of the vote for a unionized work environment really say something to all of us, other than it being another setup back for the long standing UAW.?  It is time for someone, some group, think tank, TED talk, business organization, or trade association to step up and work together to bring really “union” back to UNION USA?

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One Response to “All is Lost” or Not for UAW? – How Now to Be the Comeback Kids

  1. David Ruggles says:

    Certainly, the uncalled for pressure from politicians did not help. But I wonder if another union other than the UAW was involved if the result might have been different? The UAW has a lot of baggage, not all deserved, but they certainly played a part in the demise of the domestic auto makers. Their two tier wage system is a travesty that strongly discriminates against younger employees. Their now long gone “jobs bank” doesn’t help their image. Neither do the videos of Chrysler workers smoking dope and drinking beer during breaks. With the UAW its all about seniority, which is what U.S. unions are all about. The German auto workers union voted for all of their members to work fewer hours so they could all stay working. You would NEVER see that out of the UAW.

    U.S. unions pushing card check aren’t going to get much support. While ownership/management is certainly capable of intimidation, as evidence by the pressure brought to bear in Chattanooga, the unions bosses are certainly capable of leaning on people themselves.

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