Fuller: 'Negative' third party not needed at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant

Fuller: 'Negative' third party not needed at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant

June 6th, 2019 by Eric Fuller in Opinion Columns

U.S. Xpress CEO Eric Fuller

U.S. Xpress CEO Eric Fuller

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga has always had a proud heritage. But in the last 20 years, Chattanooga has become a city celebrated nationwide. This renaissance has been built on a business and start-up culture that has thrived with strong businesses leading the charge. There are many businesses in this city that have excelled and grown through the culture of hard work, pride in job and community, and strong leadership.

When outside companies look to Chattanooga for expansion or to build a plant or distribution center, it's that culture they are looking to attract. And that culture also attracts people here from all walks of life to work and raise their families.

Growing a thriving city is much like growing a business; it's not always linear. There occasionally can be setbacks or threats to the positive growth. As a business community, we are at such a moment. Similar to the risk in 2014, Chattanooga is again threatened by the possibility of a large union gaining a foothold in our community. Some may ask why should we care? Some may say this isn't a concern for U.S. Xpress or any another company in the community other than Volkswagen.

But this is a community issue. A union like the UAW can tear apart the fabric of our community and greatly stunt our growth. Look to the decimated cities of the Midwest such as Cleveland and Detroit, two cities that were once booming but left in tatters by strong union representation that eventually destroyed the plants and companies in which they were involved.

Many will ask why should a union in a large company or plant be considered as negative? Aren't they just representing the rights of the workers? I will admit that in the complicated history of the United States there was once a time where unions were necessary, and they improved working conditions across multiple industries. However, since those times, we have had broad, sweeping government regulations across all industries that are focused on working conditions, wages, hours and worker safety.

The industrial climate that existed in the 1920s and 1930s when unions first started making positive impacts in these areas simply no longer exists. Along with governmental protections of workers, incredible growth and competition in this country have provided options for employees and put pressure on companies to provide positive working conditions and strong pay and benefits. If they don't, their employees leave for better opportunities. A free market is an incredible thing.

Companies are built on the quality of their employee base. At U.S. Xpress, we aren't perfect, but we strive to provide a positive work environment with strong pay and benefits that rewards top performers. The onus is on us to continually improve and to listen to our employees. We would not exist without our employees; we recognize that every day. We try to provide opportunities for two-way feedback so our employees feel comfortable telling us when they have issues or concerns while we try to explain why we are doing certain things.

But what we would not want is a third party in the middle of that relationship. It's not only unnecessary; it creates an adversarial relationship. Employers and employees should work together to solve issues that affect the company. Not only is the leadership of this particular third party from outside our community, but it also has a history of corruption. A quick search shows countless articles about investigations and criminal charges, even within the last couple of weeks. That's not a partner we should want within our organizations or community.

If employees at VW have grievances, they should communicate, directly, to the plants, companies and leadership. VW should listen. Direct communication is the best way to affect change. But bringing a third party into our community, specifically one with such a negative history and track record, can affect the future of your organization in negative ways. It also can change the fabric of our community and stunt some of the amazing growth this city has seen over the last 10 to 15 years.

Eric Fuller is president and CEO of U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

Volkswagen-UAW tensions


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