Frank Fischer, the chairman and CEO of the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, left, and Gary Casteel, a regional director of the UAW, hold a joint press conference on Feb. 14. Can workers tell the difference?
Tennessee VW auto workers have just rejected being “represented” by the UAW by a vote of 626 to 712. But the back story explains a lot:
A Wall St. Journal article: “Volkswagen is interested in having the UAW represent its workers to enable the plant to establish a works council, a committee of both blue and white collar employees who negotiate work conditions with management. [In fact, it’s far more than that; it’s clear that this is a version of the “team concept” — the idea that labor and management are on the same team and that their basic interests are the same.] It appears that a works council is only possible under U.S. law if workers are represented by an outside union.” VW management helped the UAW organizers campaign by allowing them to do so inside the plant.
There is no doubt that the UAW leadership had made commitments to management that they would do everything in their power to prevent a local union from developing that really fought for the members. It’s certain that in one way or another they communicated this to the VW workers. So the workers were faced with a choice: Either kiss up to management on their own or do so through a union. Or, to put it another way: Any feelings of the need to unite as a group and stand together for their interests were certainly discouraged by the union leadership. But without that, what on earth is the incentive to have a union?
The amazing thing is that over 600 workers actually voted for a union.