Roy Exum: Experts Decry UAW Appeal

Sunday, February 23, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There appeared to be little hope and even less sympathy for the embattled United Auto Workers on Saturday, this just one day after the union appealed its recent loss at the Chattanooga Volkswagen assembly plant. Most experts seemed to agree that even with a Democrat-controlled National Labor Relations Board, the now-whining UAW is going to have “an uphill battle” to prove any illegal events occurred during the Feb. 12-14 election.

The UAW had spent two years trying to organize the VW employees and, even when the German manufacturing officials appeared to encourage the union officials while hindering anti-labor factions, the employees voted by a 53-47 percent margin to decline union representation. It is believed the overwhelming reason was because the UAW had little if anything to offer the Chattanooga workers.

But the UAW, stinging from the historic defeat, filed charges with the NLRB on Friday, claiming "interference by politicians and outside special interest groups" and also alleging "a coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign conducted by politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen workers of their federally protected right to join a union."

Gary Klotz, a partner with the Detroit firm of Butzel Long, was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, “They have not accused Volkswagen of doing anything wrong. In fact, Volkswagen disavowed Senator (Bob) Corker’s comments.”

And Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor history professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told the Washington Post that the NLRB may be trying to set a precedent regarding ‘union intimidation’ by a third party but that the VW vote lacks the best facts to do so.

“If I were a liberal member of the NLRB, I’d look for a real egregious case of management interference … (but) the prospects are poor here because it was third-party public officials,” he said, even after admitting he was a supporter of organized labor.

Senator Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor who was instrumental in bringing the VW plant to the job-hungry area, was one of several politicians who decried the UAW involvement in Chattanooga but the NLRB will struggle to find one outside voice speaking in behalf of Volkswagen. Every comment seemed to be pointed at the dreaded union. “How do you tell public officials they can’t speak on this subject?” queried Art Schwartz in a Wall Street Journal story.

Schwartz, president of Labor and Economics Associates in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the case “will be a tough one” for the UAW to win. “In reality it wasn’t (VW) that (the union) had to worry about … It was the overall attitude of the community towards unions.”

The union complaint to the NLRB specifically cited remarks made by Corker that he had been assured a new SUV model would be built in Chattanooga if the workers voted against the union but VW officials quickly claimed there was no connection between a union presence and the location of an SUV assembly line.

According to the Washington Post story, the UAW was running a “phone bank” during the election with employees and noticed a number of employees who had been in favor of the union “swaying more to neutral or ‘no,’” which led to the belief Corker’s comments may have had an effect. But the reporter cited another source that said about 1,000 of the 1,300 votes had already been cast when Corker made his comments.

Edward Niedermeyer, an auto industry consultant, wrote on Bloomberg News, “The UAW’s bitter complaints about political opposition to its organizing drive simply underlies the lack of pushback it got from management, the typical villain in union rhetoric.

“Those who claim that Tennessee officials unfairly affected the election seem to forget that President Barack Obama himself very publicly took the union side,” the writer added. “Obama tied himself to the UAW while doing nothing to forward a positive case for unionization.”

Niedermeyer, who contends the UAW is “in dire straits,” also wrote, “The defeat highlights the UAW’s biggest problem: It was almost impossible to make a positive case for unionization to the VW workers because of the UAW’s profoundly unfair two-tier wage structure … With old-timers still enjoying an unsustainable quality of life they enjoyed during Detroit’s glory days, and doing so on the backs of younger workers, the UAW’s oft-professed commitment to ‘solidarity’ falls apart.”

In a related story, The Associated Press reported on Saturday that the UAW’s defeat in Chattanooga leaves “The Big Three” automakers in Detroit “increasingly anxious about the 78-year old union’s future” and there is concern a failing UAW could be merged with a “more hostile” union in the future.

The UAW desperately needs to organize a foreign-car plant in the South, where eight of 14 have been built in just the last 10 years. Bob King, the outgoing UAW president, is on record as saying the union has no future if it cannot be done and the VW appeal is proof of such desperation. Union officials are also trying to organize a Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

THE WEEK’S BEST QUOTE – On Thursday South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley sent word to auto manufacturers with union representation — including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — not to even consider locating in her state. “It’s not something we want to see happen. We discourage any companies that have unions from wanting to come to South Carolina because we don’t want to taint the water.”

royexum@aol.com


Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Why Red Bank District 3 Is Without A Commissioner Almost A Year - And Response

As 50-year residents of Red Bank (District 3), we are concerned about the upcoming election.  Two incumbents running for commissioner are the same two who refused to appoint a commissioner for District 3 when a vacancy occurred.  District 3 has been without representation since February.  Rick Causer and Floy Pierce refused to vote to appoint three different citizens ... (click for more)

Man Shot At Apartments On Tunnel Boulevard Wednesday Afternoon, Then 2 Juveniles Shot At Rec Center On Oakwood Drive With Suspects In Custody

Chattanooga police officers responded to the apartment buildings at 404 Tunnel Blvd. Wednesday at 1:21 p.m., where residents say they heard multiple shots fired.  Witnesses said they saw multiple suspects fleeing the scene on foot behind the complex.  The male victim was taken to a local hospital for life threatening gunshot wounds.  Later Wednesday, ... (click for more)

Several Arrested Outside Erlanger Hospital When Crowd Gathers After Woodlawn Shooting

Several people were arrested Monday night outside Erlanger Hospital after a crowd gathered and clashed with police. The crowd included family and friends of 20-year-old Apprentice Berry, who was shot multiple times and killed earlier Monday night at the Woodlawn Apartments on Wilson Street. Erlanger officials said the group gathered at the emergency room, but were later moved ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Advances In State Volleyball

SMYRNA, Tenn. – It’s a good thing that Signal Mountain volleyball coach Jennifer Redman is a young lady because her heart might not be able to stand the pressure if she wasn’t. Redman’s Lady Eagles were thisclose to being sent to the loser’s bracket in the opening round of the State Volleyball Tournament here at Stewarts Creek High School Wednesday afternoon. Had it been ... (click for more)

Boyd-Buchanan Sweeps Loretto To Open Class A State Volleyball

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Playing what coach Alfie Dodd called a sub-par match, Boyd-Buchanan’s Lady Bucs were still good enough to sweep Loretto, 3-0, Wednesday morning in the opening match of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Class A state volleyball tournament at Blackman High School. Set scores were 25-19, 25-14, 25-20. “We advance and we know we can ... (click for more)