Roy Exum: VW-UAW Fiasco Begins

Monday, April 21, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

One pundit who is awaiting the opening volleys of “The Volkswagen Hearings” is calling today’s start of the labor union fiasco at the Hamilton County Courthouse as fascism at its finest. That’s what you call it, he wrote in a fiery way, when the union, the employer and the president of the United States all line up on the same side.

“And this push to eviscerate the legal rights of VW employees is yet more proof that the management philosophy of the automobile manufacturer founded by Adolph Hitler hasn’t evolved much since the fall of the Third Reich,” wrote Matthew Vadum in a current article on the “American Thinker” website. He is obviously incensed that an appeal of the 712-626 outcome is even being taken seriously.

“Many Americans don’t know that in 1937,” he wrote, “Hitler’s government created the then-government owned manufacturer originally called Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deautschen Volkswagens mbH (German for “Society for the preparation of the German People’s car”), It was soon renamed Volkswagenwerk (German for “The People’s Car Company”),” he added.

While the last thing today’s National Labor Relations Board hearing needs is a liberal dash of Hitler, it comes as a delightful addition to the three-ring circus most could have predicted several years ago when the VW officials invited the UAW to sit down for tea. While it is painfully obvious the UAW is not welcomed in Chattanooga and while the union failed miserably to produce “a better tomorrow formula” for the rank-and-file in a three-year campaign, this week’s hearing is regarded as more than a dying-breath exercise by those in the automotive industry.

Labor Judge Melissa Olivero, a 45-year-old expert in administrative law from Illinois, is expected to hear plenty as the UAW, desperate after spending $5 million to organize the Chattanooga assembly plant only to get defeated, will call a parade of witnesses in an effort to influence the five-member NLRB board to overturn the outcome based on Olivero’s opinion alone.

Olivero, a graduate of Michigan law and once a captain in the U.S. Army, is regarded as knowledgable and fair but the NLRB, according to auto industry insiders, now has a heavy Obama flavoring and the president was quick to sound off following the union defeat in Chattanooga, telling reporters that Tennessee politicians "are more concerned about German shareholders than American workers.”

 It could take months for Olivero to sort through a mine field of charges and counter charges after the hearing, which should take the better part of the week. Some who were subpoenaed refuse to appear (Senator Bob Corker is out of the country) and many believe the union’s attempt is “like trying to shovel smoke.”

The stakes are huge. The UAW has fewer than 400,000 members remaining from the 1.5 million in 1979 and, with Detroit’s “Big Three” -- Ford, General Motors and Chrysler -- slashing over 200,000 jobs in recent years, the union’s dues-paying members are dwindling. That’s why it is imperative for the UAW to quickly infiltrate the foreign automakers in the South before Michigan becomes a right-to-work state next year. Tennessee is already a right-to-work state, which hurts badly when organizers try to induce an assembly line worker to pay monthly dues while other members of the same work team decline.

Then there is the ever-shadowy new SUV that VW dealers in America are loudly clamoring to be built and boost sagging sales. While a new Passat was just introduced at the New York car show, VW sales were down 11 percent in the U.S. during the first quarter and corporate officials are being roundly criticized for their inability to move forward with the long-awaited SUV.

Chattanooga is heavily rumored to be the preferred site when the new model is built but the German union IG-METAL has a powerful voice on the VW board and has vowed they will block Chattanooga, giving the manufacturing rights instead to VW’s plant in Mexico. Tennessee has offered $300 million in incentives, which the UAW is claiming skewed the vote, and the UAW has flailed Tennessee politicians who are keenly aware of not just the union’s colorful history but also the general public’s worry that a UAW presence in Chattanooga will soon turn the Scenic City into “another Detroit.”

Chattanooga, as everyone knows, needs to build the new SUV. Here’s why: Unemployment in the United States is currently 7.3 percent. In Tennessee it is 8.5 percent. In Chattanooga it is 9.2 percent. Need more? Of all the single-parent families in Chattanooga, a whopping 43 percent are living in poverty.

But the “center ring” of the circus is where Volkswagen itself will perform. Less than six weeks after the UAW defeat, plant manager Frank Fischer was duly “summoned” back to Germany and replaced by Christian Koch, this prompting Matt Patterson of Center for Workplace Freedom to say, “Volkswagen is seriously considering discarding the election results in collusion with the union and gaining cover by a potential upcoming NLRB hearing.

“They have a gun to their head in Germany,” Patterson fumed, “This will be an election overturned by bureaucratic fiat.”

In other words, why even have a hearing if Volkswagen, after openly encouraging workers to join the union and allowing pro-union organizers to enter the plant while keeping anti-union forces at bay, is going to roll over and play dead at the end of the day? What if, indeed, the cocked-gun in Germany has already forced the decision?

A bureaucratic fiat indeed, except in the South such a fiasco is better called a goat-roping.

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