Smith: UAW not pro-growth

Smith: UAW not pro-growth

February 3rd, 2014 Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga workers deserve the truth in the effort to establish the United Auto Workers within Volkswagen.

After the name-calling by German labor leader Detlef Wetzel last week in the Wall Street Journal -- comparing Tennessee to North Korea, a failed, communist country -- with his full-throated insult of our state's free market policies while demanding our workers accept the UAW, let's inspect the impact of unions by looking right across Volkswagen Drive to the Amazon Fulfillment Center.

Amazon, the startup bookstore now the largest online retailer and one of the world's most valuable brands, is headquartered in Seattle, not a bastion of conservative ideology.

Amazon's founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is a "Libertarian Democrat" funding same-sex marriage activity, purchasing the left-of-center Washington Post last year, and giving disproportionately to politicians on the left, according to the Federal Election Commission. Amazon.com recently hosted President Barack Obama in Chattanooga just across the street from VW.

Why, then, would Amazon work with their employees and actively discourage the formation of labor unions within their business both in the U.S. and Germany?

Following a secret ballot vote two weeks ago, Amazon workers in a northeastern site rejected organized labor. Amazon issued a statement praising the "the direct connection" as the "most effective way to understand and respond to the wants and needs of our employees."

In a competitive business climate requiring innovation and flexibility, unionized labor won't work.

Since Germany is a common player here, let's look at a Jan. 22 article published in Der Speigel Online that reveals a snapshot of labor unions: "Familiar image problems beleaguer the big unions. They have failed to respond quickly to transformations in the modern workforce ... Germany's main trade unions have been hemorrhaging members for some time."

Only 28 percdent of the German workforce is unionized. In the U.S., 11.3 percent of the workforce pays union dues.

In reading about unions in the international media, a London School of Economics December article best explains why Gov. Bill Haslam, Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and our local and state officials oppose organized labor driven by the Detroit-style tactics of the UAW. The piece notes, "... While trade unions can continue to maintain a strategy of defending the welfare state, they can also play a greater role in the achievement of more equal societies. Labour organisations can only maintain a fundamental role in achieving social justice if they find alternative tools for collective bargaining and fight against welfare retrenchment."

Defend the welfare state? Maintain a role in achieving social justice? Fight against cutting back on welfare?

Organized labor is not involved in any pro-growth society where small businesses thrive or in any culture that champions performance and excellence. Organized labor is a partner in the welfare state to guarantee equal outcomes for a mediocre result.

Tennessee has survived one of our nation's most perilous economic downturns with business recruitment, balanced budgets and a reputation globally as a place to create jobs.

Mr. German Union Leader and Volkswagen, Tennessee is no North Korea. Tennessee and her people have a dignity and work ethic that you have sought. European elitists sneering down your noses won't be accepted -- it's not the Chattanooga Way.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.