published Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Whose vote is it? Move over politicians: This is a union vote

It's a union election. It concerns more than 1,500 hourly workers and Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

But with politicians wildly gesticulating on every podium from here to Nashville, you would think it was government business.

It isn't. A vote of workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant to formally accept the United Auto Workers union bid to help VW establish a works council here is a worker and company decision. All the politicking serves is to show us once again how petty and partisan and full of themselves many of our elected officials really are.

Why all the fuss? Because this vote is historic. It represents change, and not just change at one plant. This vote will create a new kind of union animal -- a works council, U.S. style -- that just might be more palatable to more workers and more businesses. It particularly may be more accepted in the South, where change has been a four-letter word since the Civil War. One VW worker last week termed it "a 21st century approach" to labor-management issues. And that means it also represents a potential change on the playing field of political donations.

So the region's Republican solons -- the same ones who pride themselves and market their party as being against "big government" -- suddenly are acting very much like "big government" this week as VW workers begin a three-day secret ballot vote.

Tennessee Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, a Chattanooga Republican who represents Hixson, on Monday threatened future economic incentive deals with Volkswagen if employees agree to allow unionization of the company's Chattanooga plant, after VW invited the United Auto Workers to help form a works council.

"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. And he called Volkswagen's effort "un-American."

Move over Chris Christie: Tennessee Sen. Bo Watson doesn't want you to have the only "bully" reputation in government.

On Monday night, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, flew to Chattanooga from Washington, D.C., (on our dime) to weigh in and do his own gesticulating.

Corker, who as a freshman senator was involved in the GM bailout, said he has had an "up-front, close look under the hood of UAW" and he fears UAW's "disruptive" reputation.

Corker also is irritated and somewhat rightfully indignant that his interest in this vote is referred to by the UAW as "outsider" interference. After all, the first two negotiations to get VW here occurred right around his own dining room table, he said.

"This to me is about one thing. It's about our community," Corker said. But then, invoking the long-repeated, anti-union chant about Detroit being destroyed by unions, Corker said new UAW management won't make a difference: "This is not a new UAW."

When the smoke clears, all the GOP hysterics still look like politicking. Unions generally don't give to GOP candidates, and not all of our statesmen can shrug off donations the way millionaire Corker can.

What we have to ask is how the threats look. One Democrat terms them an "outrageous and unprecedented effort by state officials to violate the rights of employers and workers."

Tennessee Republicans "are basically threatening to kill jobs if workers exercise their federally protected rights to organize," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville.

So much for the spirit of Tennessee as a "right-to-work" state.

But more importantly, what's the future? What happens when the vote is over if workers accept UAW and work begins to shape this new labor works council? How do all these politicians and chambers of commerce and Gov. Bill Haslam rewind all their "sky-is-falling-on-Tennessee" and "no-new-incentives" rants?

Taxpayers should care. We should worry that some of our lawmakers don't seem to know or care that threats give the state little room for rewrites and lots of room to be sued in court. Those are our dimes.

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soakya said...

Pam I asked David and I will ask you. What did you have to say when politicians and the chamber used the same "threats" to let us know without incentives these companies would relocate or decide to take their project elsewhere. And I bet if I wanted to do a little research you and Cook have probably used the same threats to convince the naysayers without these incentives Chattanooga would be suffering.

You mention Corker flew to Washington "on our dime." You do know VW was built "on our dime" as well as Amazon, Wacker, Whirlpool and a whole host of others? Why doesn't that bother you Pam? Did it cost us 700 million to fly corker to Washington?

February 12, 2014 at 12:48 a.m.
hotdiggity said...

Strong arming, threatening behavior, misinformation, outside influence. No, not the unions, but our elected officials and local pundits such as Roy Exum and Robin Smith. A special shout out to Bo "Monkey Bill" Watson and his thuggish threats to VW.

February 12, 2014 at 6:57 a.m.
Facts said...

As much as I disrespect the Tea Party fringe, the left of this city led by this side of the paper, Mayor Andy Berke and a handful of other Obama-ites is making me understand the anger with which they operate in the face of hypocrisy and pettiness.

To see Senator Corker attacked and disdained is the point at which each of you has shown your fringe left standing.

February 12, 2014 at 7:52 a.m.
librul said...

Rethuglicans just SUCK. The entrenched far right ideology of these cretins and the extremists out there in the Koch-funded tea party makes them unable to approach ANY substantive question with even-handed logic and a desire to allow the citizens to make up their own minds. Look at how much money they have poured into anti-union billboards, anti-union T-shirts and concocted photo-ops.

Why do you never see them standing up for workers' rights with the same fervor? BECAUSE THEY CARE NOTHING FOR THE WORKER CLASS. But they will do everything to coerce your vote at election time.

This is not how American government is supposed to work. The right is fronting for the unproductive plutocracy which considers workers as little more than their 'property' while the workers, living in the world of forced austerity and cutbacks to everything but taxes and the cost of living, are being squeezed from all sides.

Equity is not on the radar and THAT is what Unions promote - workers must have a voice. When they allow management to purchase their labor but give them no voice in the workplace, the system is totally weighed in favor of the moneyed class. That is why our millionaire politicians are ALWAYS opposed to workers' rights and any laws that provide for environmental protection, a safe workplace, non-discrimination and a path of advancement.

UNION YES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February 12, 2014 at 8:39 a.m.
LibDem said...

As I've said, the opposition makes it appear that the UAW is doing something right.

February 12, 2014 at 9:19 a.m.
moon4kat said...

Funny, I thought the GOP wanted to keep government out of business decisions. Guess that's just until the business wants to work constructively with labor by forming a works council. Once again, we see that hypocrites abound in the GOP.

February 12, 2014 at 9:22 a.m.
librul said...

And we shouldn't let the press off the hook on the way it reports these issues. 100,000 people were in the streets of Raleigh protesting the draconian laws coming out of their peeparty dominated legislature, but the national press corps didn't seem interested in reporting it.

February 12, 2014 at 9:27 a.m.
aae1049 said...

Someone please order Bob to get a decent hair cut if he is going to represent Tennessee.

February 12, 2014 at 12:56 p.m.
Ki said...

soak said: Did it cost us 700 million to fly corker to Washington?

No, but it did cost you your soul.

Facts said: To see Senator Corker attacked and disdained is the point at which each of you has shown your fringe left standing.

You wouldn't be saying that and singing his high praises if you knew what plans corker had for Chattanooga when he was mayor.

February 12, 2014 at 1:27 p.m.
soakya said...

David and Pam why don't you explain why you think taxpayers who have invested over 700 million dollars into a 1 billion dollar project shouldn't have a say? That's a 70% ownership interest.

Of course the best solution is for government to get out of the "investing" business and we taxpayers outside of VW could care less what VW did.

February 12, 2014 at 2:24 p.m.
Ki said...

except soakya, Chattanooga would become a ghost town and that would dipped into your pocket book and mine more so than the taxes we pay.

February 12, 2014 at 4:08 p.m.
soakya said...

Not so ki. I have looked at the financial statements of Hamilton county, Cleveland and Danville Va. Danville and Cleveland are similar size. Danville is doing the opposite of Cleveland and they have lowered taxes and debt while Cleveland has raised both.

February 12, 2014 at 4:29 p.m.
Ki said...

Danville Va? Well that explains it. The state of Va is home to several military and other federal installations which brings in lots and lots of federal dollars to the state. You know those tax dollars you whine and cry over.

February 12, 2014 at 4:50 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

There is a lot riding on this vote. It is getting national attention and it will probably determine the direction that other auto manufacturers in the South take, whether to unionize or not. This could be a very important first step on a long road back to regaining some populist power.

I find it interesting that Republicans and conservatives in general, who are always screaming about individual freedom, are so vehemently opposed to this. Even the company heads at Volskwagen are perfectly agreeable to having the employees decide for themselves. A free vote is being held and a simple majority among those who will be directly affected will decide the outcome. There is nothing more democratic than that. Oh, but I forget...Republicans are afraid of democracy. That tends to favor people power and diminish corporate power. But you neo-cons, corporations ain't people, no matter what the SCOTUS says, and granting unlimited freedom to corporations does not equate to freedom for individuals.

Corker, Bo Watson, and you other Repubs throwing a hissy fit about this, just shut up and butt out! Let the workers decide!

February 12, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Nooooo! UAW will become a Dem Party Pac with 2,500 workers to fund it.

February 12, 2014 at 6:07 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Okay, other words, the workers should not have a voice? It should be strictly up to outside interests, politicians, and people like you to decide? If the heads of Volkswagen don't have a problem with it, neither should you. It's not your fight.

Unions would not be so pro-Democrat if Republicans showed some real respect for workers and stopped hiding behind their "right to work" philosophy, which means basically that "we ain't gonna do diddly-squat for you, so suck it up and be grateful you have a job making less than poverty wages." BTW, I know that Volkswagen employees make better than poverty wages, but that is the attitude that Repubs have toward workers in general.

February 12, 2014 at 6:25 p.m.
soakya said...

Thanks to the chamber and our politicians taxpayers own 70% of VW, they should be allowed to vote. you want others to stay out of it then leave tax payer dollars out of it.

February 12, 2014 at 10:46 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

What a silly thing to say! Our tax dollars go for all sorts of things but that doesn't mean that we "own" them. You want to vote on this? Be my guest. Trot on down to the VW plant today and tell them that you own 70% of the company and you are there to vote. Good luck with that.

February 13, 2014 at 12:49 p.m.
moon4kat said...

The men and women doing the work get to vote. That's fine with me.

Maybe all those mouthy GOP politicians would rather have a job at VW so they can vote on whether to have a union. Maybe we can arrange that.

February 13, 2014 at 1:55 p.m.
amyinsparta said...

Beginning in the late 1800s, unions saved thousands upon thousands of lives with their continuing efforts to force owners to upgrade their work place, give the worker a living wage, make child labor unlawful, make 18 hour workdays unlawful, create sensible retirement packages for the worker. Then, after a number of years, as usually happens, the union bosses turned into thugs and tried to amass the same fortunes as the corporations had. And they used crime bosses to help. So of course, the corporations took this opportunity to move overseas where they didn't have to worry about hours worked, days worked, how old the children were, how safe the workplace was, and how much money they deemed the lowly serf was worth.

And then, they convinced the ignorant that it was ALL THE FAULT OF THE WORKER and the ignorant believed it, even the workers. And so the Walmarts of the world started again to work the serfs for as little as they could get away with and no one said a word. Meanwhile, the lowly serf in Europe decided that the best way to conduct business was to COOPERATE with owners so that both could prosper. What a novel concept! And now, Europe's minimum wage is higher, the benefits are suitable, and the workers likely are pretty happy. At least those who work for the corporations that operate like this.

Meanwhile, back in the States, the Corporatist lackys, better known as our 'esteemed' elected officials, continue to berate the efforts of the serfs while taking bribes from any and every corporation that will line their pockets and request that they pound home that COOPERATION between workers and management makes a company as productive or more productive and keeps it's workers for a longer employment time than those who treat the help like dirt, is a LIE.

Guess what? The vote at VW is going to show that workers and management CAN work together for the good of all concerned which likely will result in a much better product because the worker will be a much more willing worker.


People, this country is never going to get out of this he** hole we're in until/unless every working person is considered worthy and deserving of decent job and decent life. It's as simple as that.

February 13, 2014 at 6:13 p.m.
rt said...

WAIT....!!!!, Don't call it a union...!!!!! Call it a "militia" and the tbaggers will eat it up like a plate of yams....with extra syrup...!!!!!

February 13, 2014 at 10:10 p.m.
librul said...

Vote is in, Corker is thrilled, effects of Limbautomization are confirmed, buzz buzz go the worker bees.

February 15, 2014 at 12:45 p.m.
sredge said...

NAFTA destroyed manufacturing and unions. As soon as NAFTA was signed, all the car companies moved operations to Mexico. Hershey's, the Great American Chocolate Bar? Made in Mexico. Brunswick Bowing balls moved their plant to Mexico, laid everybody off in Muskegon, MI. Ever heard of the Christmas party at the Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan in 1913? Copper boss thugs yelled "Fire!" and held the doors shut so 73 people died trying to get out. That'll teach 'em not to try to unionize! Those miners made less than a dollar a day! That's what "Right to Work" means: you've got the right to work for less money! Way to go, VW workers! No pensions for you, no decent wages, no safe workplace! Who needs that? You all want to be indentured servants!

February 15, 2014 at 1:07 p.m.

oh, yeah, and politics has nothing to do with the UAW. They're completely neutral when it comes to politics!

Hypocrisy. UAW...seeeeeeyaaaa!

February 15, 2014 at 5:25 p.m.
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