Recently, many pro-UAW voices have stated that a “majority of workers at the VW plant … have cards with the union.” As most realize, if this had ever been the case, given the UAW’s desperation to get into any foreign auto plant in the South, there would have been an audible sonic boom from the UAW team running to the nearest NLRB office to file for certification. So, let‘s be honest with ourselves and put that claim aside. Now we have a vote before us with serious ramifications.
Many in this debate talk about “the plant” and “the workers.” I’d like to change the grammar a bit in a way I strongly suspect other writers may not, and use “our plant” and “us.” Those of us who are employed at Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations have what is called a “stake” in the outcome. It is our future employment, our future wages, benefits, and retirements that are directly at risk.
There are other stakeholders: employees of suppliers, transport companies, restaurants, hotels, other Chattanooga manufacturers, all homeowners … basically, the entire community. When Volkswagen decided to move to Chattanooga, a much larger group of people were positively affected than direct employees. Likewise, if suppliers or other foreign auto plants decide not to spend millions relocating to Chattanooga to avoid UAW entanglement, it will hurt more people than those who might have been hired.
When, after years of struggling to build a cost competitive car with high labor costs, high logistics costs, and intermittent slowdowns, sick outs, wildcat strikes, and other typical UAW tactics, VW gives up and leaves behind a brownfield, I’m sure the UAW will use its typical talking points about design and bad management. Likewise, I would expect VW to say kind words about the U.S. and leave blaming “unanticipated difficulties with resolving supply-chain cost issues.”
The UAW bosses will be fine; they will be playing golf at their dues-funded resort in Michigan. The VW management and the leadership of the IG Metall union in Germany will be doing just fine as well. We, the workers at VW Chattanooga and the community at large, will be left with the unemployment, closed facilities, depressed housing costs, and a loss of all that income and tax revenue.
Before we vote, I sincerely hope each of us will ask some questions. If the UAW was so good at being a great partner; a great protector of jobs, a powerful ally of both worker and management as they claim, how has the UAW gone from well over a million members to just over ¼ of that? Why is the UAW losing both certification and decertification elections far more than winning them? What does the backroom deal that the UAW made with VW mean for your pay and benefits? Remember: the UAW wins if your pay goes up and your benefits go down. The UAW is in this for the UAW – not for you.
This vote is about the future of Chattanooga manufacturing. Volkswagen offers great jobs with great pay and great benefits; and has the potential of luring many more such jobs to Tennessee. Let us not listen to an outside group from Michigan that is desperate to get their hands in our wallets and ruin this for our whole community.
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Well my Volkswagen Co-Workers….today is the first day of a three day historical journey for us. Soon, it will be over, and I am praying and hoping it goes the right way for us. Why “us” when I am a salaried support worker and you are an hourly production worker? Because I have been here with you guys since before the first car was built. And I remember fondly the days where we all worked together to get ready. Working together to finish all the little things we did on that shop floor to be ready for “our first car.” I remember talking with people from all sorts of backgrounds, people who didn’t care who was white collar and who was blue collar. We didn’t care. We had won the job lottery and we were about to make history together.
We make a really nice car. A car that, that I am proud to drive. And I will still be proud to drive it either way, but I am worried for you guys today. And selfishly, I am worried for me and the rest of us who are here to work with you and provide you support to build ‘our’ car. We aren’t managers, but we aren’t builders of the car either. Many of us came from UAW led sites. We have real UAW experience, and know what it is really like after the courting and the honeymoon ends. We are worried for you and us. And it isn’t a worry about losing our jobs or anything like that. No, it is much worse. I am worried that we will all lose what we built together.
Why should I worry? Because if the UAW does get in, we cannot come talk to you anymore about your ideas, about your thoughts, about our car and our work. We cannot stand on the line with you while we discuss things, and then you ask me for a hand. I cannot help you adjust something to make things easier. I cannot even touch a tool to hand it to you. I cannot show you the respect you earned from me. - Not unless your union rep OKs it. Not unless you go through them. And frankly, that’s going to suck.
You are being pulled two ways, and you really have a struggle. I get that. I really do. I know how we are here in East Tennessee. We don’t like to make waves. We don’t like confrontation. And we are proud to do a good day’s work. But this way we are could hurt us this time.
I know many of you don’t plan to join the UAW, but also want to respect that others might want to. You can still respect their opinions, but if you don’t plan to pay dues or join them, then you really need to cast a vote of No. Not because you don’t want to make waves, not because you don’t respect your co-workers - but because if you don't vote, they are not going to count you as a “no” if you don’t show up and vote.
And if too many people who don’t care either way decide they won’t make waves, even though they want nothing to do with the UAW, they will in essence have said OK, yep, come on in. Because not casting your vote is not the same as voting no. Only a cast vote will count. If only the Yes voters show up, then you will be forced to be represented by a union you didn’t plan to support or join.
Non Management Specialist
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Don't forget that by abstaining or voting yes, you are agreeing to give up your VW lease program as you know it. The UAW makes those neat little stickers that say: "Buy American- UAW!" You get to put one of those on your Passat, because that will be the closest thing to an American car that you would be able to drive. Everyone that has Golfs, Jettas, Routans, or even an Audi will have to forgo those foreign cars because they weren't built by UAW hands. I guess the local UAW union hall will have to put up a clarification on their sign that explains what a foreign car is so that it will be clear which VWs will be towed at the owner's expense.
The UAW will not make up for the difference in the lease program that you will be giving up (12 month lease for 1.5 percent the retail value, all insurance, registration and maintenance is paid for you).