Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was very proud of his role in getting the workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga to narrowly vote against joining the UAW by warning that if they did, it could mean fewer jobs and perhaps plant closings.
He may be right, but not in the way he intended.
Volkswagen’s top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.
Workers at VW’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last Friday voted against representation by the United Auto Workers union (UAW), rejecting efforts by VW representatives to set up a German-style works council at the plant.
German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined “co-determination” principle which is anathema to many politicians in the U.S. who see organized labor as a threat to profits and job growth.
Chattanooga is VW’s only factory in the U.S. and one of the company’s few in the world without a works council.
“I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again,” said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council.
“If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor” of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW’s supervisory board, said.
The 20-member panel – evenly split between labor and management – has to approve any decision on closing plants or building new ones.
Nice going, Senator.