Thursday, February 13, 2014

Das Auto Pushes Back in Tennessee

You've got a car plant and your workers there may want to organize a union.  You could fight back in all sorts of ways but, no, you say "it's your choice."  Suddenly you find yourself up against middle-class lovin' Republicans who, as it turns out, think it's your duty to keep any such thing as the middle class from gaining a toehold in their Tennessee. 

Since Volkswagen wouldn't try to intimidate its workers into voting down the union, Senator Bob
Corker took the wheel yesterday, letting slip that he'd been "assured" that, if those workers only voted down the United Auto Workers representation, Volkswagen would add another vehicle to their assembly lines.

Volkswagen wasted no time in responding.

"There is no connection between our Chattanooga employees' decision about whether to be represented by a union and the decision about where to build a new product for the U.S. market," said Frank Fischer, chairman and chief executive officer of Volkswagen Chattanooga.

What's going on here?  If Volkswagen is okay with a union, why are so many state and federal Republicans suddenly on the warpath, trying to intimidate both the workers and the company?  The answer is explored at some depth in Chuck Thompson's book, "Better Off Without 'Em, A Northern Manifesto For Southern Secession."

Thompson chronicles how the South's supposed rise has been built, in no small part, on the back of a ready supply of cheap, non-union, redneck labour.  In the South, the notion of "master-servant" relationship is extremely literal.  Volkswagen, by not fighting fiercely against union organizing, is letting down the side.  By remaining completely neutral it's positively heretical.  Why, if VW workers got a union, that might give all those other rednecks working in all those other factories the wrong idea.   What if all those peckerheads decided they wanted unions and proper pay and benefits and job security and pensions and every other hallmark of decency those companies flocked here to avoid?


Dana said...

How many of the employees of the Peoples car plant are black?

Neo-slavery anyone?

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting question. I have no idea. Is it still slavery if white people are lining up for the jobs?

Troy Thomas said...

It's a slippery slope. If Southerners get better paying jobs, then they'll start wanting better education. If they start wanting better education, then by golly, they'll start demanding better jobs, in general.
And then, due to how many US states tax structures are built, people'll begin noticing, due to their better education, just how awful their governments actually are. Poor tax structure and poor spending.
Better paying jobs will lead to people demanding better governance. Bad jobs lead to people having too little education and too little energy to demand more than they get.

Troy Thomas said...

Another thought. VW comes from a culture which is simply different from the US south. Germany has a really high unionization rate. I think they could give a damn if their manufacturing plant unionizes.
In fact, they'd probably prefer it, due to the benefits unions usually bring to a workforce.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Troy. I think both of your comments are spot on. One reason behind Germany's post-war recovery was the collaborative form of industrial relations that prevailed.

And, yes, the political classes in the South do see workers' rights as a threat to their economy. Of course so does Walker in Wisconsin and most of the Repugs in Michigan to boot.

What news on the Northern Gateway front?

Troy Thomas said...

I'm way south in Salmon Arm, so there's little news gets this way.
But there's been no big news yet, anyhow. Mostly slogans for now. And waiting for the northern BC bands to get this tied up in the courts, which'll probably buy time for people to steel themselves to throw their own selves in the way of this project if the courts rule in favor of the Canadian government and Enbridge.
But I doubt it gets out of the courts for a long time. BC First Nation bands are pros at tying up cases in the courts.
If anything happens, I'll pop up in the comments. Sometimes the northerners campaign in Vancouver for fundraising. If that happens, I'll let you know. Also, if a blockade or anything starts, I'll pop in.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey, sounds good. Thanks man.