The UAW against democracy, free speech in Chattanooga

Matt Patterson Executive Director, Center for Worker Freedom, ATR
Font Size:

The United Auto Workers (UAW) lost its bid to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee auto factory on February 14th.

The VW employees voted 712-626 against UAW representation in what can only be described as one of the most epic failures in the history of organized labor.

The financial and political fallout of the loss has received much commentary. But the union’s post-election actions have been, if anything, just as consequential: The UAW has filed an objection with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), claiming the election had been tainted by statements from Tennessee politicians during election week.

In particular, the union singled out statements made by U.S. Senator Bob Corker and State Senator Bo Watson: The former made clear that he had been told (by whom he did not say) that the VW facility would receive another production line if the workers rejected the union; the latter spoke for many local politicians when he said that the state would re-evaluate future tax incentives for VW should the union prevail.

Union reps also bitterly denounced efforts by the Center for Worker Freedom, a project of Americans for Tax Reform, to educate Chattanoogans about the history and political activities of this economically ruinous cartel. As Dennis Williams, current secretary-treasurer and soon-to-be president of the UAW, raged, “The NLRB needs to limit outside interference in the vote from [Americans for Tax Reform founder] Grover Norquist … and other conservatives that just want to hold workers back.”

Let’s be clear about what this says about the UAW: It doesn’t want elected officials to speak their minds, relate conversations that they have had, or speculate about future public expenditures. It doesn’t want people discussing how the union spends its money, or what politicians and radical causes it supports, or its role in the bankruptcies of General Motors and Detroit.

In other words, the union is petitioning the government to help it stifle speech that it does not like.

This hatred of free speech is nothing new for unions, of course. For decades they have funded liberal politicians who have then made laws restricting anti-union speech (so called “persuader” rules) while exempting unions from restrictions that bind everyone else, such as harassment and stalking laws.

The UAW is also making abundantly clear its contempt for the democratic process. The union fought to keep a secret ballot out of the election in Chattanooga because, current president Bob King said, this sacrosanct private act is “divisive.”  When workers were granted a secret ballot at VW anyway, the union fought to have complete and unrestricted access to workers at the plant, which VW was happy to grant, while simultaneously insisting that workers who wished to discuss alternatives to UAW representation were shut out (sadly, in this too Volkswagen was happy to oblige).

Despite this unfettered access to the electorate and in spite of the company openly assisting its efforts, the union lost. Now it wants a do-over, not because it respects the voice of the workers (which it clearly does not) but because it didn’t get the result it wanted. The UAW wants the government to give it to them, the wishes of the voters be damned.

The totalitarian impulse at the heart of organized labor has been beating since at least the time of Lenin, who correctly noted, “trade Unions are a school of Communism.” Citizens of Chattanooga, and every city under pressure from the UAW, should ask themselves:

What kind of organization requires restrictions on speech and democracy to thrive?

Matt Patterson is Executive Director, Center for Worker Freedom, at Americans for Tax Reform.  mpatterson.column@gmail.com