Labor

Why the GOP Needs to Butt out of the UAW Vote in Tennessee

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Union
ever/siempre / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The UAW petitioned the National Labor Relations Board on Friday to hold another election in the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga after its narrow loss. But even if it wins the next round, I note in a morning piece at TIME Ideas, the war for its future is essentially unwinnable.

The union was hoping to reverse decades of membership declines by an easy victory in this plant. Easy, because IG Metall, the German workers union, had forced Volkswagen to sign a neutrality agreement with the UAW. In Germany, unions can veto management decisions that don't serve worker interest. And IG Metall had threatened to bar the company from manufacturing a new line of SUVs in Chattanooga, the only Volkswagen facility worldwide that is not unionized, unless it remained "neutral" by forfeiting its right to campaign against the UAW.

But the union claims that Big Bad Republicans intervened and made it lose.  And it is not wrong (pardon the double negative). The Republican-controlled state legislature, for example, threatened to withdraw an "incentive package" meant to keep this facility in the state.

Government officials of course have no business trying to influence decisions of private workers, much less using taxpayer dollars to do so. If Democrats had tried to pull a similar stunt to encourage unionization, the GOP, the allegedly free market party, would have been up in arms.

And what was the point anyway? Tennessee is a right-to-work state, which means that even if the UAW manages to unionize the plant, it won't be able to automatically collect union dues and use them to elect Democrats, the big GOP fear.

Nor is this victory replicable elsewhere because there is not much the UAW can offer workers besides lighter pockets:

The post-bankruptcy restructuring of the Big Three slashed UAW wages to levels comparable to those at foreign transplants. And the union can no longer insist on lavish health care benefits without signing the death warrant of auto companies given Obamacare's 40 percent excise tax on gold-plated health care plans. Moreover, transplant workers are rarely ever laid off, so union membership does not buy any more job security.

What's more:

General Motors and Chrysler's bankruptcy has forced even Northern states to shed their union shackles. Indiana, and even more remarkably Michigan, are now right-to-work states, something scarcely imaginable five years ago. It is hardly likely that Southern workers will embrace unionization just when Northern states are de-unionizing, especially given the new competitive pressures emerging from low-wage Mexico and China.

So any way you look at it, the UAW as we know it today is pretty much defunct, whether it realizes it or not. So please chill, Republicans, and let Chattanooga workers decide their own fate.

Go here to read the whole thing.


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  1. Yeah, turn the unions into martyrs, that should work!

  2. Didn’t they already decide their fate? I think the GOP is right to object to this. They had an election. What is the point of having an election if the losing side can just immediately demand another one until they get the result it wants?

    1. If progressives lose, it’s a temporary setback. If they win, it’s Settled Law.

      Didn’t you get the memo?

      1. Yep. They keep moving the goalposts until they win. Then the game is over.

    2. Yeah, they can lose a thousand times. All they have to do is win once–and then they’ll never hold another election!

      It’s sort of like the Muslim Brotherhood taking over your factory.

      1. What is Shika’s bitch about the GOP here? Can she not see that or is she really just for the union and won’t admit it?

        1. I think she is that against the GOP.

          Not that crafting legislation that makes the UAW look like martyr’s is really a good plan though.

          1. Shika is by the worst about the “pox on both houses no matter how strained the logic has to be to get there” kind of intellectual laziness that goes on at Reason.

            Two things about that bug me. First, it only goes one way. They never make any effort to rope in a “Democrats are just as bad” point when slamming on the GOP but always do that when criticizing Dems. Second, the effort inserts lazy and marginal points into an otherwise strong argument. Here, the point is that the UAW is so awful that it can’t get workers to vote to join even when the company practically fixes the election for them. But Dalmia obscures that point by adding the ever present “but don’t forget that no matter how bad the UAW and Democrats are, the GOP is just as bad” paragraph, which of course makes the completely stupid argument that the GOP is wrong to actually expect the results of an election to be final.

          2. According to a report by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Republican State Senator Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) said that future economic incentives for Volkswagen may not be supported by the legislature if workers vote to accept UAW representation this week.

            It’s not exactly crafted legislation. They don’t want a UAW auto plant in Tennessee. Why should they subsidize one?

            1. They don’t want a UAW auto plant in Tennessee. Why should they subsidize one?

              The real question is why they should be subsidizing any plant.

              1. That is the bigger issue. But the fact is they did. And I think it is fine for them to take that back if VW does something the state doesn’t like. IF VW doesn’t like being beholden to the state, it shouldn’t take the state’s money.

              2. “The real question is why they should be subsidizing any plant.”

                Honestly, I don’t begrudge anyone a tax cut, and if we did the math, I suspect we’d find that whatever tax cuts Tennessee has given away to lure auto manufacturers to the state, the state has gotten a lot more tax revenue because of those auto manufacturers moving to the state than they gave up in tax breaks.

                Hell, it’s not just Volkswagen, and we’re not just talking about the factories and factory jobs. Nissan moved its corporate North American headquarters from Los Angeles to Nashville.

                States competing on tax rates is a good thing for capitalism. Whatever pressure there is on states like California to lower their taxes to keep employers like Nissa in the state because of states like Tennessee is something we need more of.

                Hell, it might be better if all corporate taxes were on an individual case-by-case, contract basis.

                1. States competing on tax rates is a good thing for capitalism. Whatever pressure there is on states like California to lower their taxes to keep employers like Nissa in the state because of states like Tennessee is something we need more of.

                  Depends on how it’s done. If tax rates are better for all businesses, I’d agree. If they make exceptions for particular businesses, I disagree. The latter stifles competition and is, at its heart, cronyism.

                  1. “Depends on how it’s done. If tax rates are better for all businesses, I’d agree. If they make exceptions for particular businesses, I disagree. The latter stifles competition and is, at its heart, cronyism.”

                    I don’t see it that way at all.

                    Different states offer different businesses different advantages.

                    Different companies offer different states different advantages, too.

                    It’s sort of like hiring employees. Some of them are worth more than others. Some of them are overpaid. Paying them all the same doesn’t really make sense.

                    Sometimes it’s worth it for a team to pay a bundle to sign a free agent. Sometimes teams overpay for a free agent.

                    If other teams are negotiating with your free agent, why shouldn’t you be allowed to negotiate with him, too?

                    1. Sorry, I see this as cronyism and ripe for abuse. Here we have politicians doling out “special” favors for connected industries. States should not be in the game of picking winners and losers in marketplace.

                    2. “Sorry, I see this as cronyism and ripe for abuse.”

                      When you say “abuse”, do you mean businesses paying less in state taxes?

                      Because if that’s abuse, I want to be abused.

                      “States should not be in the game of picking winners and losers in marketplace.”

                      I’m not talking about states picking winners and losers. I’m talking about governments competing for customers.

                    3. Sure you want to be abused.

                      You want to pay less in taxes and you want your competitor to pay more.

                      When the state picks winners and losers they are giving unfair advantage (in the form of a tax break) to one company over the other as opposed to the free market deciding which company(ies) survive. It is central planning.

                    4. “You want to pay less in taxes and you want your competitor to pay more.”

                      I don’t care how much other people pay as long as I’m paying less than I would be otherwise.

                      I really like the idea of a tax contract. Your business model is such that paying sales taxes isn’t good for you? Okay! Let’s try to negotiate something else!

                      Bringing market forces to bear on tax rates–more directly than they are already–would not be a bad thing. And I really like the idea of taxes being paid on a more voluntary basis becoming a new norm…

                      The taxes you pay are a function of the tax contract you agreed to?

                      If all you have to complain about in that system is that people with competitive advantages can justify and negotiate better tax deals, then that’s not really much an objection to my eye.

                      That’s like a less productive employee using class envy as a complaint against a more productive employee making more money.

                      That’s like a less efficient business complaining that a more efficient business can beat them on prices.

                    5. If all you have to complain about in that system is that people with competitive advantages can justify and negotiate better tax deals, then that’s not really much an objection to my eye.

                      Bullshit Ken. It stifles growth and innovation at the same time giving the government more power.

                      It is, BY DEFINITION, cronyism. You’ll have deep pocket businesses petitioning the government in the form of donations to tax their competition more than them. They don’t get ahead by making the best product…they get ahead by getting government to crush their competition for them.

                      It DEFEATS the benefits brought about by free market capitalism.

                      I have NO problem with states that try to attract business with low taxes overall. I do have a problem when the government starts choosing winners and losers.

            2. For ‘economic incentives’ read ‘being allowed to keep more of the revenue they generate’ rather than ‘being given taxpayer largesse in the form of subsidy’

              Tax breaks are not subsidies.

              1. Tax breaks are not subsidies.

                They are if they’re not given to your competition.

                1. “They are if they’re not given to your competition.”

                  This is garbage.

                  I don’t begrudge anybody not getting ripped off.

                  Not fair! The government should mug my competition, too! If they aren’t being victimized, then that’s not fair?

                  The way markets work, prices change according to market conditions and market forces. The whole process is borne out by different market actors, on both the demand and supply sides, negotiating transactions–one transaction at a time. And there isn’t anything fundamentally unfair about that. If so and so has a competitive advantage because he got his resources and capital the old fashioned way–he inherited it?

                  So what? That isn’t unfair–that’s life!

                  Taxes should change according to market conditions and market forces, too.

                  Weren’t you the one the other day arguing for enterprise zones?

                  1. What, exactly, does government have to do with the free market?

                    You are comparing selective government tax rates to market forces. That’s asinine.

                    Ken is in favor of cronyism. Why do you hate the free market Ken?

        2. It sounds like the GOP was threatening to change the tax code specifically to fight unionization, which would be pretty scummy.

          But I would say that it’s still worse to demand a new election 5 minutes after you lost the last one.

          1. Kind of. They are changing tax code sure. But what are they doing? Taking back the favors the granted to VW, which frankly should have been granted in the first place but that is a different argument. I think it is fair to say those tax breaks wouldn’t have been so popular if Tennessee had known inviting VW meant inviting the UAW along with them. I think it is fair to take them back if the workers at VW decide to invite the UAW in.

          2. This isn’t an easy issue. It’s not like the state is opposing unions on principle here (though it probably does in some sense in its laws in general); it’s opposing the UAW in particular. A union that helped create a wasteland in what was once one of the more wealthy cities in the U.S.

            Whether government should be meddling in these sorts of things is a separate issue, but, as things go today, I’d say it’s understandable that they might not want this union to fuck up their state, too.

          3. You said it better than I thought it.

            I need some coffee.

        3. “Government officials of course have no business trying to influence decisions of private workers, much less using taxpayer dollars to do so. If Democrats had tried to pull a similar stunt to encourage unionization, the GOP, the allegedly free market party, would have been up in arms.”

          Given everything she’s written about unions in Detroit, it would be a real stretch to call her pro-union–even if she’s objectively pro-union in this one instance.

          I think we should take her for face value.

          I just don’t think she’s seeing the big picture, here.

          Government intrusion is already fundamental in this election–to its core. Like I said, the reason Volkswagen isn’t opposing the unionization of its shop in Tennessee is becasue the German government forces Volkswagen to give half of the seats on its board to IG Metall, the German union that represents Volkswagen’s workers in Germany.

          Given that fact–and the NLRB’s interest in this–no government involvement isn’t an option. I wish it were.

          1. If I take her at face value, I have to conclude that she sees nothing wrong with the loser in an election immediately demanding until it wins. In that case, she is just stupid. Maybe, but I don’t think she is that stupid.

            1. I think she’s being ideologically consistent.

              It’s like thinking the charges against a serial rapist should be dismissed if the evidence against him collected in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

              If that’s what her position was, would that make her pro-rapist?

              I don’t think so.

              Problem is, she’s supporting her argument with a bunch of points that don’t really seem to be about being ideologically consistent. And that’s really hurting her, here.

              1. That analogy makes no sense. The better analogy would be her thinking that someone acquitted of a crime should be tried again if the prosecution finds new evidence.

                She is not being ideologically consistent at all. It doesn’t matter what you think of unions. A fair election means the result is final you don’t immediately have another one because the losing side didn’t like the result. If the Union one, it would be equally wrong for VW to immediately demand an election to decertify the union.

                1. She’s talking about government intrusion on a business by the GOP.

                  She’s also defending the principle that workers should be free to choose what to do with their own money–even if they want to pay union dues and have that money used to fun the campaigns of Democrats in the state.

                  Like I said, I disagree with here, and I don’t think she’s taking the big picture into account. She’s thinks she’s seeing the big picture, but she needs to scope out even wider and consider the impact of the German government imposing IT Metal on Volkswagen–and the NLRB imposing the UAW on the voters of Tennessee.

                  But just because I don’t think she’s applying the principle of government non-involvement correctly, in this case, doesn’t mean I can’t see what she’s saying. …and it certainly is true that the Tennessee GOP is taking its own hide into consideration in making these threats. I just happen to think that’s a negligible consideration considering all the other government sponsored forces working for the interests of the UAW.

                  1. The bottom line Ken is that she doesn’t see a problem with the Union immediately demanding another election. That makes her either dishonest or stupid.

                    1. No, it also means she could not consider it a fair election.

                    2. She may care about some issues more than others.

                      She might care more about politicians not imposing themselves on and individual’s right to make choices for themselves on whose campaign they fund than she cares about the NLRB imposing the UAW on a particular political party.

                      At any rate, I’ve read enough of her work that I think she’s just wrong–rather than dishonest.

  3. “IG Metall, the German workers union, had forced Volkswagen to sign a neutrality agreement with the UAW. In Germany, unions can veto management decisions that don’t serve worker interest.”

    My understanding is that, in Germany, half of a company’s board members are elected by the union (in companies over a certain size).

    I’ve heard say that Hitler initiated this policy because he didn’t want labor disputes and strikes disrupting his arming of the Wehrmacht.

    Forcing private shareholders to cohabit with unions in the boardroom certainly isn’t the worst thing Hitler ever did, but it is further evidence that his was evil all the way through.

  4. The GOP doesn’t care about good, American jobs.

  5. I’m also not sure why the UAW is so hot to unionize in a right-to-work state.

    1. Public Relations. Any win is important at this point.

      1. More important, ANY dues. The UAW is a 1/4 of the size it once was. They’ve reduced their staff greatly.

        They. Need. More. Dues.

        King is proposing something like doubling dues. Unheard of…but that’s how bad it is.

        It’s delicious to watch 🙂

        1. So they wouldn’t collect twice as much from me if I worked there?

  6. But the union claims that Big Bad Republicans intervened and made it lose. And it is not wrong (pardon the double negative). The Republican-controlled state legislature, for example, threatened to withdraw an “incentive package” meant to keep this facility in the state.

    If the local government provided incentives, then the local government bought a right to influence the operation of the business including elections to unionize the business. This is why government fucking incentives are bad.

    Shikha should be writing about the real problem not the Republican’s image problem.

    1. this is the correct interpretation of the situation here. If we, the taxpayers pay then we also get a say in the matter and if you don’t want our involvement then you don’t get our help.

  7. Commenters should unionize to demand better hours and more alt-text.

    1. We also should demand a cap on maximum Warty content in a single thread.

      1. There should be a mandatory 15 minute Lobster girl thread every 2 hours.

    2. Fuck you – I don’t want any of you jerks representing MY interests!

      /VP

      1. That’s fine, you will just have to remain outside of our union mandated happy hours.

        1. *stands closer to VP, drinking a Cosmo*

    3. I’ll negotiate my own terms, thanks. You fuckers will just drag me down.

    4. Screw that. I’m commenting management. Get back to work, Auric.

      1. I’m on break.

        1. Get back to work or we’ll hire someone who looks and types just like you!

          Fuck, managing a union workforce must just be an absolute pleasure.

          1. I’ll scab over if Auric goes on strike.

            1. You don’t have the union training necessary to post quality comments complaining about the alt-text.

              1. That makes me perfect. No quality and no substance. I’d be like a black hole of commenting or something.

          2. Sorry, I sprained my hand playing on break so now I’m on disability. I won’t be able to type so I can’t get back to work.

            And I can only type this because I…uh… used my other hand.

  8. But the union claims that Big Bad Republicans intervened and made it lose. And it is not wrong (pardon the double negative).

    Unions used to stand up to armies of Pinkertons, crew served heavy machine guns and National Guard units. Now they whine about Bob Corker suggesting the workers vote “no”.

  9. If Democrats had tried to pull a similar stunt to encourage unionization

    It’s a good thing President Scratch My Back wasn’t out there
    putting his two pro-union cents in, then.

  10. The Republicans opening their yaps provided exactly what the UAW wanted – a plausible argument to the NLRB that the first vote wasn’t “fair”, and therefore that workers “deserve” another vote because “UNFIAR LABOR PRACTIVE INTERFERENCE WHAAAAAHHH!!”.

    And they’ll probably win it, cause have you seen the composition of and decisions by the NLRB lately? Straight up commie.

    So – TEAM RED should learn to STFU and not provide the gun with which its opponents will shoot them. You can whine about it all you want, but that’s reality. and Ms. Dalmia is correct. But politicians gonna politicate, so….we’ll see.

    1. So they should let the UAW and the hacks at the NLRB keep calling elections until they get the right result?

      1. No John, that’s not what I said.

        Don’t bother trying again.

        1. That is exactly what you said. If the GOP STFU like you say they should, isn’t the effect of that letting the UAW call new elections until it wins?

          How do they stand up to that and also STFU? I would like to hear your solution to that dilemma because I am not seeing it.

          1. Maybe they could just say “We don’t think you should unionize.” instead of “If you unionize, we’ll remove your tax breaks.”

            Of course, you get in bed with vipers, don’t be surprised when you get bit.

            1. I have no sympathy for VW. If they didn’t want the state in their business, they shouldn’t have taken the state’s money.

  11. The UAW petitioned the National Labor Relations Board on Friday to hold another election in the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga after its narrow loss.

    Narrow loss? It was almost 100 votes out of 1300. Is that really considered narrow?

    1. 53-47% is a “narrow loss” in Shikha-town.

      1. I do think that makes more sense to call that narrow than to call 52% a “mandate”.

      2. When you’re the employer, that’s a *lot* closer than you want it.

        Take from someone who’s on the inside…that’s “too close”….

        But 50% +1 wins, so VW FTW, UAW “too bad, so sad” in this case.

        1. The employer was pro-union, let the union in and barred anti-union campaigning on its property.
          53-47% is a huge defeat.

    2. Depends which way those hundred votes went.

  12. If the local government provided incentives, then the local government bought a right to influence the operation of the business including elections to unionize the business. This is why government fucking incentives are bad.

    Exactly.

    And- Whether or not it is strictly true, there seem to be a lot of people claiming VW cannot legally establish a Works Council (which they want to do) unless their employees are represented by a “real” union.

  13. “And what was the point anyway? Tennessee is a right-to-work state, which means that even if the UAW manages to unionize the plant, it won’t be able to automatically collect union dues and use them to elect Democrats, the big GOP fear.”

    Being a right-to-work state doesn’t prohibit the UAW from collecting dues from union members and spending the money to elect Democrats in Tennessee.

    It just prohibits the UAW from collecting dues from non-union members.

    Why would the UAW collecting ANY dues from union members in Tennessee be a good thing for the state GOP?

    1. It prevents unions from collecting dues from people against their will. Workers get to decide whether or not to pay. Since they are working on a contract that the UAW didn’t even negotiate, I fail to see the motivation for them to pay.

      1. Dalmia was suggesting that, being a right-to-work state, the reason the GOP doesn’t want this is because the GOP wants to stop UAW members from willingly paying dues and having that money used against the GOP in campaigns.

        My point is that if we’re going to look at this from a pragmatic standpoint, why not go all the way?

        Yeah, the UAW is using the NLRB in order to get union dues and challenge anti-UAW GOP candidates within the state.

        How can anyone rationally expect the state GOP to sit on their hands and breathe through their noses–in the name of government non-intervention?

        1. “How can anyone rationally expect the state GOP to sit on their hands and breathe through their noses–in the name of government non-intervention?”

          If the government of Germany is using Volkswagen as a means to empower IG Metal, and the UAW is using the NLRB to impose itself on Tennessee autoworkers, then the result of the GOP losing this fight will not be government non-intervention.

  14. Not that I’m FOR government influencing elections with taxpayer money, I can see why a right to work state (or any state for that matter) would be concerned about unionization. Others have a stake in the outcome besides the workers/company.

    Look what unionization did to Detroit. It turned a once great city into a third world shithole. I’m sure the other businesses have no desire to see the same happen in Tennessee.

    I don’t condone it, but I understand it. It’d be nice if the voters had the foresight to realize the most likely outcome and choose the correct path WITHOUT interference.

  15. The UAW spent something like two years campaigning for this thing, with the tacit approval of VW. Under the circumstances, I’d say they got their asses handed to them.

    But the NLRB will let them hit the reset button until they get the result they want.

  16. It would be a good idea for the idiots at VW to spend some time studying the history of Saturn before jumping into the sack with the UAW.

  17. Certified unions are special governmental entities. They exist based on federal law, they exert governmental regulatory powers over a narrow field of activities, and they collect tax-like duties according to the terms of their charter. I think there’s every reason to oppose people creating a new layer of government, which in many ways is not any different from creating a museum district or a sewage district except that unions spawn from federal law.

    1. The UAW should have been decertified the moment Gettlefinger broke off negotiations with GM management and started negotiating with the Obama Administration for a government takeover.

      That’s the other thing I don’t think Dalmia is taking into consideration: the union that’s trying to unionize these Volkswagen workers currently owns a huge chunk of the American auto industry.

      From a purely ideological perspective, if Socialism is when the workers own the means of production and the UAW owns a huge chunk of the American auto industry, then ask me how this rabid capitalist feels about the UAW spreading to more factories.

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