Economy & Budget

The UAW’s Southern strategy

The UAW's Southern strategy

The union bosses that helped bring the Detroit automotive industry to bankruptcy are now vying to export Detroit-style unionization to southern Right to Work states.

Largely free from Big Labor’s baleful influence, Right to Work states in the South have thrived, experiencing an increase in auto manufacturing production over the last decade.

And now that United Auto Workers (UAW) union officials have helped bring Detroit’s auto industry to its knees, the UAW is hoping to replace its 75 percent decline in membership since 1980 by expanding in the South.

UAW operatives have reportedly spent at least the last year and a half trying to get Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen workers to sign over their rights during a coercive “card check” unionization campaign. The National Right to Work Foundation received numerous calls and messages from workers at the Chattanooga VW plant who were told by UAW union organizers that a signature on a union “card” was actually a call for a secret-ballot unionization election.

Other workers have echoed those allegations to reporters. They’ve also accused UAW organizers of bribing workers into signing union cards.  One VW worker even said that union organizers were giving out free tickets to the local amusement park in exchange for a signature.

Meanwhile, UAW union organizers are seeking to unionize Mercedes-Benz workers via a card check scheme in Vance, Alabama.  According to the New York Times, UAW union bosses are also orchestrating a worldwide effort to pressure Nissan to push its Canton, Mississippi workers into UAW union ranks via card check, or else.

Of course, this not the first time UAW union bosses have sought to expand into Right to Work states using coercive card check schemes.  In 2002, UAW union officials tried to strong-arm Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation workers in the Right to Work Carolinas into the union via card check instant organizing after striking a backroom deal with German-based auto manufacturer Daimler.

While UAW union bosses are doing everything they can stop workers from fleeing their ranks, they have found that many employees want nothing to do with them.  In North Carolina and South Carolina, the Freightliner workers actually took the UAW union to federal court.

In Chattanooga, over a third (and counting) of the VW workers have signed petitions to keep UAW union bosses out of their workplace, while others have filed federal charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) challenging the legitimacy of several of the union cards.  Meanwhile, Mercedes workers in Vance have spoken out to each other and the media in opposition to unionization of their workplace.

Perhaps these workers would rather not give up their right to represent themselves on their own merits. Or perhaps they want nothing to do with the UAW hierarchy’s burdensome work rules that could cost workers their jobs or the union’s poisonous “hate the boss” mentality that could cost them a stable working environment.

Regardless of the reasons, independent-minded workers across the Right to Work South are taking a stand against coercive unionization drives in their workplaces.  These workers know what happened to Detroit and don’t want Detroit-style unionization exported to their communities.  As some Nissan workers in Canton wrote on their t-shirts, “If you want a union, move to Detroit.”

Mark Mix is President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is providing assistance to VW Chattanooga employees. www.nrtw.org

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