Smith: Union vote - that just ain't fair!

Smith: Union vote - that just ain't fair!

March 5th, 2014 Roger Smith in Opinion Columns

Signs from the UAW's unsuccessful campaign in Chattanooga.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

I recently ran the Scenic City Half-Marathon, a first-class event. Unfortunately, I missed my goal of running a 7:30 (minutes-per-mile) pace and ended up at 8:40. Suppose I decide that my pace wasn't fair because of my age, the cold I had, my lack of time to train, etc.

I announce to the timekeeper my pace was 7:30, which it could have been if life was fair. How foolish! Yet, that is the fanciful approach of the United Auto Workers (UAW) in appealing the recent VW workers vote based on unfair influences by our local "outside" politicians. The union cannot change reality, but it is trying.

Chattanooga workers considered UAW representation and rejected it. Many pointed out they are better paid and have better benefits than their UAW counterparts working under new contracts that were negotiated by the UAW during the federal bailout that allowed GM and Chrysler to avoid bankruptcy. Their choice was common sense. They may still vote for union representation, just not the UAW, a darling of the left.

As a member of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), a small union representing only Southwest pilots, I found this vote intriguing. Like VW workers, Southwest pilots have been courted for years by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), a large union, closely affiliated with the AFL-CIO that represents pilots in other major airlines that declared bankruptcy recently: United, Delta, Northwest, US Airways, and Continental. Years ago, our pilot group rejected them and formed our own union. The arrangement has worked well for both company growth and the benefit of the pilot group. We are the highest paid narrow-body pilots (we don't fly wide-body jets) in the United States, and Southwest has made money every quarter in the 43 years it has been in business. It can happen with VW as well.

There are many parallels between the UAW and ALPA such as the bankrupt companies they represent, unhappy employee groups, outlandish salaries for union bosses, huge contributions to the Democratic Party and high worker dues. Like the pilots at Southwest, VW workers made a common-sense decision after weighing these factors. That doesn't make them mindless minions cowered by politicians opposed to the UAW, despite the efforts of the UAW and their liberal accomplices to say so. Gov. Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker voiced their opinion in support of their decision, not only because it was the best thing for current workers, but it offered the best opportunity for job growth in our community. Sen. Corker has stated time and again he is not anti-union, but he's strongly anti-UAW because it is much more in the business of protecting its political interests than the workers it represents.

In response, I envision the left making a one-sided movie about the whole VW affair like the critically acclaimed 1960 movie "Inherit the Wind" that made the citizens of Dayton look like fools for defying the liberal intelligentsia during the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. As it opens, citizens strut across Walnut Street bridge waving "Down with UAW" signs. Sen. Corker leads them in singing "Give Me That Old Time Religion" while Gov. Haslam tosses screaming UAW organizers into the river. In the only true part of the movie, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Mayor Andy Berke watch silently from the shore. A big, cigar-chomping fellow sporting a UAW lapel pin shakes their hands, and says, "You boys gonna make great politicians, 'cause y'all sure know how to take a firm stand in the middle of the road!"

Sen. Corker and Gov. Haslam spoke out for the well-being of our community. It was a courageous thing to do in a society dominated by powerful political interests on both sides. No matter how the UAW appeal to the NLRB turns out, we can take pride in having elected at least two politicians who care more for their community than their political futures. Now, that's fair!

Roger Smith is the author of "American Spirit."