Thursday, February 20, 2014

VW Backfire

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.

4 barks and woofs on “VW Backfire

  1. Any LABOR FRIENDLY state would suit me. Washington? Maybe VW could take up some of the slack Boeing left when they moved a significant portion of their operation to “Right To Work” S.C. I guess I’m not a very good person but I think that such an outcome would sort of balance things.

    • Washington? Why would VW, even if they would open another plant in the US, target any state other than one in the South. And this just isn’t the VW model. Prior to them, Mercedes, BMW, and a host of other auto companies have flourished in the South. Looks like Boeing is a business, not the non-profit you seem to think all companies should act as. But, if this concept is still eluding you, look up area-specific differences in the 2 areas (cost of living, average local wage before & after VW came to Chattanooga, tax incentives Boeing got for moving to Washington versus SC) and report back.

  2. It’s interesting to watch GOTea pols, accustomed to US conglomerates, trying to apply the preconceptions from that space to foreign conglomerates in the US. Internationals – especially European firms – come to the US with their own attitudes to work, labor, billing and productivity. The South has been spoiled up to now, with Japanese firms and their expectations of long hours and hard work; European companies, with their expectations of more life in the work/life balance and longer history with strong labor movements, are a different animal altogether, and the idea that working employees longer for less doesn’t sell well with them.

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