Tomorrow at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1,570 Volkswagen employees will gather to vote on whether or not to unionize and join the United Auto Workers. However, Tennessee’s Republican representatives are already getting their guns ready, stating that the move will be detrimental to Tennessee’s economy. Senator Bo Watson, along with a slew of other Republican figure heads, believe that if a union is established than other companies may be hesitant to set up shop inside of the state.
Republican senators have been so opposed to the move that there have even been threats of cutting off future tax incentives to Volkswagen. In a released statement sent to the Free Press, Senator Bo Watson said, “Should the workers choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe additional incentives for expansion will have a very rough time passing the Tennessee Senate.”
However, there is another twist in this story: Volkswagen has no problem with their employees unionizing. This, of course, is quite unusual.
Detroit Free Press writer, Brent Snavely, says, “After an organizing campaign that began about two years ago, this week’s vote is the UAW’s best opportunity to win support at a foreign-owned assembly plant since Honda began building cars in Ohio more than 30 years ago. More than a half dozen organizing efforts at Japanese factories in the U.S. have failed.” Unlike other foreign automakers, Volkswagen actually has a positive outlook towards unions. Volkswagen would be more than happy to oblige the Tennessee workers so they would be able to establish a “works council,” which is currently outlawed by U.S. labor laws unless a union is present.
Presently, all of the Volkswagen factories in Europe use a “works council” to iron out all management-employee affairs. These works councils consist of elected white collar and blue collar workers that work in collaboration with the company’s management to create a harmonious labor environment. These elected officials are also granted access to the Global Volkswagen Works Council, which would help to facilitate business into the state while also keeping workers happy.
Chattanooga Volkswagen CEO Frank Fischer says, “Our works councils are key to our success and productivity. It is a business model that helped to make Volkswagen the second-largest car company in the world.”
Overall, works councils have been proven to be extremely successful, too. Harvard labor law expert Paul C. Weiler explains, “There are three major advantages of councils. You’re forced to consider in your decision making process the effect on the employees in advance…this avoids costly mistakes. Second, works councils will in the final run support the company. They will take into account the pressing needs of the company more than a trade union can, on the outside. And third, works councils explain and defend certain decisions of the company towards the employees. Once decisions are made, they are easier to implement.”
However, Republican Senator Bo Watson thinks differently of the situation; he says, “It has been widely reported that Volkswagen has promoted a campaign that has been unfair, unbalanced and, quite frankly, un-American in the traditions of American labor campaigns.” Of course, Republican representatives have always been fearful of unions because the potential for workers to stand up for their rights could be detrimental to business and the economy. Allowing Volkswagen to unionize would only add to this potential problem because more people would expect similar representation.
Ironically, their decision falls right in line with what they hate most about Democratic policies: a big government putting their hands into the business world.