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Volkswagen workers say ‘NO’ to unionization

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Breanna Deutsch Contributor
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After three days of secret-ballot voting, employees of the Chattanooga, Tenn., Volkswagen VG plant rejected attempts by the United Auto Workers to unionize the autoworkers.

If the German-based company’s Chattanooga workers had voted in favor of unionization, it would have been the first time that the UAW represents workers of a foreign company.

In the secret-ballot, which is intended to prevent intimidation from outside parties by protecting voters’ identity, Volkswagen workers rejected an UAW takeover by a vote of 712 to 626.

The decision marked a crushing defeat for UAW and labor’s hopes that the vote would reignited union growth in the South.

After the results were in, the Detroit-based union blamed conservative groups or “outside interference” for influencing Volkswagen’s employees. Gary Casteel, the union official in charge of the Chattanooga campaign, said in a statement, “Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee.”

After actively campaigning in Chattanooga for two years, the UAW must now withdraw from all organizing efforts aimed at the Tennessee plant for at least a year.

Conservative groups, who had warned that a union takeover would discourage other businesses from moving to Tennessee, applauded the workers’ decision after the votes were counted Friday night.

“Despite the misrepresentations, exaggerations and outright lies made by labor organizers which led to workers filing federal charges against the UAW, the workers in Chattanooga understood unionization would cost them hard-earned dollars, result in the loss of their individuality and imperil their future,” Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI), said in a statement.

He added that Friday’s “result sends yet another message to Big Labor bosses that they cannot strong arm their way into American businesses and force workers into unions they don’t want.”

Over the weekend, Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, a former mayor of the Southern city, also criticized UAW’s efforts to move into the town, fearing that the union’s presence would compromise the efforts he had made to create auto manufacturing jobs in the state.

“We know the negative impact this is already having on our ability to bring employers to Tennessee,” Corker said in a news conference in Chattanooga. “It’s going to create wind in our face.”

Corker also said in a statement this week that according to inside information given to him from Volkswagen executives, he was confident that if workers rejected unionization, “Volkswagen [would] announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new midsize SUV here in Chattanooga.” Volkswagen is also considering opening up a plant in Mexico in lieu of building the SUV in Tennessee and some believe that unionization may have pushed them south of the border.

Considering recent labor trends, what happened at the Volkswagen plant is not surprising. Union membership has been on the decline throughout the country and the UAW has been no exception to this phenomena.

Since 1979, the UAW has lost 75 percent of its membership, while total U.S. union membership fell to 11.3 percent in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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