The United Auto Workers is hoping that a third election will be the charm for convincing Volkswagen plant workers in Chattanooga that they should unionize. Unfortunately, if they succeed, these workers will pay a heavy price like other workers before them.
The National Labor Relations Board has set an election for Wednesday though Friday for the 1,790 maintenance and production workers at the Tennessee plant.
The first election occurred in February 2014. The workers won the election, rejecting the union by a 712-626 vote with help from the Center for Worker Freedom and Americans for Tax Reform.
The UAW then tried to unionize 165 maintenance workers in December 2015. They were unfortunately successful.
However, the UAW is not content with just 165 unionized workers. They want more power in a region that has usually rejected union representation and for very good reason.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, correctly expressed the views of many workers in two of her tweets: "We're not going to let @UAW turn Chattanooga into Detroit" and "We don't need Union bosses in Detroit telling Tennessee what's best for our workers."
In addition, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee toured the Chattanooga plant on May 30 for a second time in the past two months. In his speech to workers, he urged workers to vote against the union to ensure economic development.
Further, as uawinvestigation.com, a project of the Center for Union Facts, explains, the UAW has a sordid history and present.
The UAW is currently using workers' dues (over $1.5 million so far) to defend UAW leaders who are accused of corruption. An ongoing federal investigation has already led to seven convictions.
While not illegal, the UAW also uses worker dues to spend money on a wide variety of luxury trips, meals, and even homes for its leadership. For example, it just built a 1,885-square-foot cabin (with non-union workers to save money) for former president Dennis Williams using interest from the union's strike fund.
In addition, from 2013 to 2017, the union spent more than $36 million on expensive hotels and resorts, over $10 million on private jets, limousines and other travel, and over $3 million on upscale restaurants and catering.
Unfortunately, though, while UAW leaders have used worker dues to enhance their own lives, they have not protected their workers. The Center for Union Facts has published a number of reports of abuse and sexual harassment by UAW representatives and leaders.
Finally, the UAW's poor representation of workers has led to a number of auto plant closures and the loss of thousands of jobs. There is a map of these closures on the UAW Investigation website. The map shows that at least three plants have closed in the South.
In contrast to the failures of the UAW, however, Tennessee has been a welcoming environment for employers and workers.
The Volunteer State is ranked sixth for its Economic Performance Rank and seventh for its Economic Outlook Rank in the 2019 Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.
At the Volkswagen plant specifically, workers are also doing well financially. In fact, the starting wage at this plant is $14 an hour. The automaker announced in January that Chattanooga would be the home to Volkswagen's first electric car manufacturing facility. Volkswagen plans to open a second facility in Chattanooga and add 1,000 jobs plus $800 million in investments in the area.
Given the UAW's history and current problems, workers should vote for more prosperity, rather than for the empty promises of a union under investigation.
Olivia Grady is senior fellow at the Center for Worker Freedom, a project of Americans for Tax Reform.