Roy Exum: Remember: VW Is Us

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There are big billboards on our streets, showing decay and squalor in Detroit, and the “UAW” has been sprayed over with the word “Obama.” That’s sad because as Chattanooga’s Volkswagen workers begin a three-day vote over their future and the peril becomes real that the United Auto Workers may soon nest in our city, I think it is real important for each Chattanooga worker to know that our nation’s President, any elected officials and voices such as mine have absolutely nothing to do with the decision each of you must make.

It is paramount that each Volkswagen worker in Chattanooga takes an integral part in deciding his or her future. Our country is founded on freedom and the biggest of all assures each VW worker the undeniable right to represent the one person they see each day in the mirror. With all the hoorah and twisted hands and fear of organized labor, the key to the whole mix is – and must be -- the freedom for each man and woman to make the decision they feel will be in the best interest of themselves and their fellow employees.

I squirm when I see members of our legislature suggest there will be a lack of support out of Nashville if the rank-and-file approves UAW representation. I happen to believe this is not true; while some may be disappointed and left hurt after all that was done by so many to bring your jobs here, I can promise not one in our present legislature will ever desert you. I hold the strong belief that the men and women we have elected in Nashville are each of the caliber that they will be unquiveringly faithful to every citizen who they represent regardless of this week’s election result. I really believe that.

Further, I don’t believe this is a Republican “showdown” or a Democratic “stand,” as I have read in countless stories and opinions. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have a vote. The Democrats are big union supporters but let’s be real – they don’t have a vote and politics can’t dictate how a VW worker should vote. Both parties decry “outside influences” but that is exactly what both have become, just as I ruefully admit I have no dog in the hunt or skin in the game. This issue is to be rightfully decided by only those who are Volkswagen’s employees at the Chattanooga plant.

Forget Mercedes in Tuscaloosa, Nissan in Smyrna, Toyota in Georgetown or any other plant. Workers at every auto maker are watching the outcome but not a one has a vote. Do not base your vote on anyone’s future other than your own. The prayer is that every VW employee will vote in the most unencumbered, non-influenced way humanly possible. We need the most honest vote because it should best reflect the will of the Chattanooga group who casts it.

But just like President Barack Obama, Senator Bob Corker, our legislators, and countless thousands of Chattanoogans, I hope and pray our neighbors, the VW workers whose children attend our schools and play on our little league teams, will simply be true to their hearts and vote for what is good for Chattanooga, not some far-away place that wants nothing more than their money.

Yes, I am solidly anti-union, remembering tears from the past when the International Typographical Union did everything in its power to put my family out of business. I got a snide email yesterday from a character in Milwaukee, decrying me because my family “busted a union,” but the moron failed to read the union struck us, not the other way around. No one is ever proud to endure a strike and, candidly, I’ve thought of my friends and former employees who walked out on us for years.

I praise Senator Corker, legislators Bo Watson and Gerald McCormick and most especially Richard Floyd for their passionate pleas -- Richard’s daddy endured the Free Press strike right beside me. If truth be known “Tango” Floyd raised me like a son and still today I can vividly remember the profane and vulgar catcalls he personally endured as he would drive my younger sisters across the picket line to our home some times. Richard knows all about it. He wept like I did.

Gerald McCormick is one of the brightest stars in the legislature but what you don’t know is how he used to wince every time the union abused his father. This isn’t whim or folly – Gerald has lived Chattanooga like it was back when the unions squeezed all of our industry out until hardly anything was left. He’s seen it. He’s tasted it. And he watched it crush his daddy. Bigger fact: Gerald McCormick would do nigh anything to save our Volkswagen plant right now.  Biggest fact: no matter what the final vote, he will be right there for you for when all this is over.

Bob Corker will still be your senator, too. My goodness, Bobby brokered the GM-Chrysler bailout that kept the UAW alive – and he also kept our entire nation from suffering a full-scale depression. He didn’t do it for the union; he did it for us. The result was terrible; haughty GM left the taxpayers with $10 billion unpaid but, without Coker, our nation may well have crumbled. If the UAW wins this week, he will not change. He will remain the VW employees’ senator and do what is best for them.

Our city and county leaders, cringe as many now may, will not budge an inch in their devotion to our people. Corny, it may well be but we don’t give up on our own. Oh, there will be disappointment, just as there are right now in Knoxville where some of the Vols got arrested last week, but they are still ours. They will hopefully wear the Orange in the fall, just as every VW worker must know that in the end you are still us.

If the UAW is defeated in Chattanooga, it will serve as a sterling example of who we as a people are. If the UAW wins, we must remember the VW workers in Chattanooga are still us, and somehow we’ll get through this and use it for the good.

This week’s vote is agony but the outcome in no way should diminish that when it is over and the votes are final, the VW voters will still be us.

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