An Important Microcosm of Anti-Unionism

September 12th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I found this to be a great little look into just how deep anti-union sentiments flow among conservatives today.  From the NYT:

It’s no secret that many Republican lawmakers dislike labor unions, which are big supporters of Democrats. But it’s unusual to see a politician willing to castigate an employer in his state just for talking to union officials about setting up a union at its factory.

Consider the case of Bob Corker, the Republican senator from Tennessee, and Volkswagen, the German automaker that employs 2,000 workers at a plant in Chattanooga…the company is working with the United Auto Workers on a plan to unionize its factory so it can establish what is known as a “works council” in Germany. These councils are essentially committees of workers that meet with management to discuss how to improve conditions and productivity. Some studies have found that plants with such committees have higher productivity and wages than factories without them, which is why both workers and management might want them.

It’s one thing for politicians to argue that public poilcy should or should not support unions, such as measures like the Employee Free Choice Act, which aims, from the labor movement’s perspective, to change policy with the goal of leveling the playing field for union organizing.   That’s a wholly legimate debate.  But for a politician to get up in a company’s grill like this over private, voluntary negotiations is not only going way out his lane into choices he should have nothing to do with–imagine a pol complaining to a company that signed up with the Chamber of Commerce or NFIB–but a signal of how deeply they fear and disdain unions.

It’s also another example of how allegedly market-oriented policy makers throw their phony anti-interventionism over the side when they feel threatened.

The strangest thing about Mr. Corker’s and Mr. Haslam’s criticism of Volkswagen is that Republicans are usually on the ones telling everybody else in government not to meddle in the affairs of profit-making businesses. After all, it’s their mantra that businesses, not lawmakers, create jobs. But I guess none of that matters in this case because even a company as successful and profitable as Volkswagen, which is competing with Toyota and General Motors to be the world’s largest automaker, must be deluded if it’s entertaining the possibility of working with a dreaded union.

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3 comments in reply to "An Important Microcosm of Anti-Unionism"

  1. Tom in MN says:

    Volkswagen seems to know that employees *are* the company and the better they work with them the better everyone is off. German economic performance during the Great Recession is enviable — and their partnership between companies and unions is one reason for it. The need to include employees in running the company seems to have been forgotten just like the idea that the poor are also consumers and letting them make a living wage allows companies to sell them products. As you say, we are all in this together, but that is not just an ideal, it’s how it works whether you like it or not.


  2. save_the_rustbelt says:

    Many of the transplant assembly plants are in the south because the companies wanted nothing to do with the UAW.

    Transplants generally do not locate in Michigan or the northern half of Ohio because of the UAW (parts operations do locate there, in order to service both the D3 and the transplants on the I-75 cooridor).

    It can be argued that the UAW has been “reborn” and now understands that hating business is not an enlightened policy for a union down 1 million members from its peak. It can be argued that the UAW now understands that destroying customer loyalty and market share is not a good business or labor strategy.

    Time will tell.

    (Most of my liberal friends are 1) fervently pro union but 2) drive cars assembled in non-union plants. Go figure.)


  3. purple says:

    The wages at that Chattanooga plant are atrocious so I’m not impressed. And VW located there to get the lowest possible prevailing wage in a somewhat urban location – if they wanted a union plant just set up in Ohio.

    Let’s not get carried away with the German miracle. It’s built wholly on exports which is mathematically impossible for every country. And the basis for that export dominance is that wages have risen much less than productivity since the advent of the Euro. Because of the Hartz reforms, which are enforced by these works councils.

    In many ways the Euro crisis is based on the fact that Germany reneged on a agreement within the Euro at it foundation, that wages increases should match increases in productivity. Otherwise you get the kind of imbalances which are wracking the region.

    All in all , it sounds nice – but these works councils are one of those things that might just look better at a distance.


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