Volkswagen Is A Battered Woman - And Response

Friday, February 07, 2014

It is evident that Volkswagen will never learn: the UAW is not good for auto manufactures, especially VW.  

Fifty years ago last month, the UAW, under then president Walter Reuther, struck a deal with President Johnson to not go on strike leading up to the 1964 election and to support his platform. In return, Reuther asked that "light trucks" be included in an upcoming bill that would tax imported goods from foreign countries. This last minute deal suddenly saddled VW's commercial division with a 25 percent tax per vehicle. Because of this "Chicken Tax,"sales in 1964 were down to 1/3 of what they were in 1963. While the other aspects of this tax have been repealed, light trucks remain taxed at 25 percent when imported from foreign countries. 

Fast forward 15 years to the late 1970s. Pennsylvania offered Volkswagen the largest incentives yet ($100 million) to locate their new plant outside of New Stanton, Pa. After signing a 30 year lease, they organized with the UAW. Within six months, the plant was on strike. After merely a decade of labor disputes a failure to maintain viability in the market, the VW Westmoreland Plant shut its doors. That plant currently sits empty, despite a two decade stint as a Sony assembly plant.

In 2011, Volkswagen rolled the first U.S. made vehicle off their assembly line right here off exit 9. After three years and $577 in incentives, VW had finally come back to the U.S. market. Sales went crazy and the Passat won the 2012 Motor Trend Car of the Year. Despite all of the success and over a half billion dollars of taxpayer money, VW wants to get back in bed with the UAW. 

Do the folks at VW remember these episodes? Have they already forgotten how adversarial the UAW has been to Volkswagen's efforts in the US? The UAW has taken every chance to pull VW back a step and hurt their sales, even when labor issues were not the issue. They have beat the German cars down every chance they get for the last 50 years. Just like a battered wife, Volkswagen keeps showing back up, saying everything is okay and expecting different results. Watch out for those eye-level doorknobs and falling down the stairs. If VW keeps inviting the UAW into their affairs, all of the future wounds will be self-inflicted. 

A "yes" vote gets you a membership card and a wife-beater shirt. 

Tim Giordano

* * *

Having seen numerous letters to Chattanoogan.com pointing out the evils of the UAW in an effort to dissuade VW hourly workers from voting for the union, I keep waiting for the union's rebuttal to these numerous charges.  

Perhaps the UAW's "methods of persuasion" just don't resonate well in such a genteel format as the opinion section of this fine website.  

Jim Nelson


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