More anti-UAW billboards going up in Chattanooga

photo Anti-UAW sign on digital billboard in Chattanooga area.
photo Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga. Workers at Volkswagen's only U.S. factory will decide in February 2014 whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.
photo An anti-union message is visible Tuesday on a triple-flip billboard for northbound motorists on state Highway 153, between Shepherd Road and Shallowford Road.

The head of a group putting up 13 anti-United Auto Workers billboards in Chattanooga said Thursday the move focuses on the union's "economic legacy" in its home town of Detroit, which has filed for bankruptcy, and the UAW's "left-wing nature" of supporting President Barack Obama and other Democrats.

But a UAW spokesman discounted the impact of the outdoor ads.

Matt Patterson, who heads the Center for Worker Freedom, said the aim is to reach as many people as possible with the digital ads that are to stay up through next week's election at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant.

"We want to let people in Chattanooga know what kind of organization they could be getting," he said.

But Gary Casteel, a UAW regional director, said he didn't think the billboards will be effective.

"From my experience, billboards are a waste of money," he said in an email, questioning if the ads will change anybody's mind.

Casteel also criticized the activity of the Washington, D.C.-based center and other outside groups that have weighed in to the election issue.

"Never have we seen this much activity from outside, third-party groups," he said.

Dr. Diane Halstead, the Mary Harris Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said billboards are "great for creating awareness" of mass-consumption products in a specific geographic market.

"They are not really effective as a persuasive form of marketing communication, i.e., changing people's minds or behavior," she said in an email. "They're limited in terms of message, and there's a lot of waste coverage, too. Outdoor advertising is notorious for being one of the most difficult types of advertising to measure in terms of effectiveness"

Earlier this week, Patterson's group placed two billboard ads in the city, one trying to tie the UAW to Obama. Patterson said the other ad cites an independent analysis of "how disastrous unionization has been for the American auto industry."

In one of the new billboards, a blighted plant is shown with the wording "Detroit. Brought to You by the UAW."

photo United Auto Workers, UAW, logo

Patterson said that there are a couple of other ads which will show up on billboards as well, through he declined to indicate what those will display.

He also wouldn't say how much the ads are costing the group, which is affiliated with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.

Volkswagen filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board earlier this week for an election at the plant next Wednesday through Friday to determine if workers want the UAW to represent them in collective bargaining.

The UAW has said it wants to partner with VW and establish a German-style works council at the plant and "set up a new standard in the U.S."

VW has a works council at nearly every major plant it operates worldwide. Within a works council, both blue- and white-collar employees can meet to discuss issues such as training, safety and hours. VW has said that a union is needed at the plant for a works council to be set up under U.S. labor law.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.

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