I was glad to see the United Auto Workers (UAW) file objections with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the nasty campaign by anti-union Tennessee politicians to affect the results of the union election at Volkswagen last week. It would be so enlightening for the NLRB to question Sen. Corker (R-Tenn.) under oath about his alleged conversations with the “real decision makers” at VW, the supposed source of his threat/promise that voting in the UAW would doom the VW plant’s hopes for expansion. Was Corker lying, or were VW executives breaking their neutrality agreement with the UAW and using Corker to help defeat the union? If he was VW’s secret agent, the election should be set aside.
Several other Tennessee legislators made threats, as well. Moshe Marvit of In These Times collected a few of them:
“State Senator Bo Watson in a press conference two days before voting began [stated:] “Should the workers at Volkswagen choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe any additional incentives from the citizens of the state of Tennessee for expansion or otherwise will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate,” Watson said. Three other prominent Republican politicians in the state—Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick along with Jack Johnson and Mark Green, the chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the state Senate Commerce and Labor Committee—weighed in with warnings of the consequences to the community and state should the workers vote to unionize.”
The rest of the campaign against the UAW—from Grover Norquist’s billboards to the mysteriously funded Southern Momentum “grassroots” anti-union group—was not obviously illegal, but it made offensive and ignorant claims that should have been answered. Blaming Detroit’s financial woes on the UAW is ludicrous, since it was the Big 3 that abandoned Detroit and moved their capital everywhere else, not the union. When the companies disinvested in Detroit, they weren’t doing it to escape the UAW, either: The union followed the Big 3 wherever they went, until they moved to Mexico and Asia. But the UAW had no say in the auto companies’ investment decisions; the law reserves that power exclusively to management. Even blaming the UAW for the Big 3’s financial woes is stupid: if high wages wrecked the Big 3, why didn’t the even higher wages bargained by German unions wreck BMW, Mercedes and VW?
This story hasn’t ended and I, for one, am ready for a new chapter.