Another Detroit?

Another Detroit?

By Malia Dalesandry

The first city to pave a concrete road, Detroit can barely get half its traffic lights to function these days. Sadly, some folks in the South want to bring in the same union that contributed to the downfall of the once-thriving Motor City. United Auto Workers (UAW) is trying to expand its chokehold to Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. All are right-to-work states.

For example, Volkswagen, manufacturer of the popular Passat sedan, has a factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a German company, VW must comply with German and European Union labor laws which include setting up “works councils.” Works councils are comprised of both employer and elected employee representatives who meet regularly to discuss matters of common interest not covered by regular trade union agreements. Unfortunately, UAW leaders want to regain membership (which declined 75% over the past four decades), and they recognize an opportunity in the implementation of works councils. In an awkward twist, as the Washington Times notes, “[t]he arrangement [the works council] must be recognized through a U.S. trade union, such as the UAW, or else be considered a ‘company union,’ which is against the law.”

The majority of Chattanooga’s employees don’t want to join UAW, and the struggle is already rife with accusations of UAW misconduct, including bullying and tricking employees to get signatures on union cards.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Seven workers at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant are filing federal charges against the United Auto Workers, saying the union misled and coerced them and other employees to forfeit their rights in its card-signing campaign to gain their support, a group said today.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said its attorneys are to file the charges today with the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Atlanta.

Earlier this month, the UAW said a majority of the plant’s workers had signed cards authorizing the union to represent them. It also said it was asking VW to recognize the union because of the cards rather than hold a secret-ballot election at the plant.

According to the foundation, VW workers were told by UAW organizers that a signature on the card was to call for a secret-ballot election. The workers also charged other “improprieties” in the card-check process, including using cards that were signed too long ago to be legally valid.

In addition, the foundation said, workers who wanted to lawfully revoke their signatures were told by union officials that they had to physically appear at a union office if they wanted their cards returned to them.

Thanks to tactics like these, Tennessee’s right-to-work law could be trumped. Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, notes that “Volkswagen is stuck between a rock and a hard place.” The company says it prefers to respect the wishes of the employees who don’t want to join the UAW, but it may not have a choice.

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