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.
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.