NewsAuto Workers Union Sets Southern Expansion Goals

Auto Workers Union Sets Southern Expansion Goals

Before the vote for unionization, the Tennessee plant was the only Volkswagen plant in the world that did not have worker representation.

After the United Auto Workers election victory at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, the organization is hopeful that victory is a taste of what could be in store throughout the South, a region that has been historically hostile to unions. The optimism comes because for the first time, the union group won an election vote in an assembly plant located in the South run by a foreign automotive company. 

The Mercedes fight Fein refers to is two Mercedes-Benz plants located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which experts like Harry Katz, a labor relations professor at Cornell University, believe is going to be more difficult to unionize because it is deeper in the South than Tennessee. 

“They are going to have a much harder road in work sites where they are going to face aggressive management resistance and even community resistance than they faced in Chattanooga,” Katz told U.S. News & World Report. “VW management did not aggressively seek to avoid unionization. Mercedes is going to be a good test. It’s the deeper South.”

To Katz’s point, already six Southern governors have already warned workers against joining the UAW ‘s union, including Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey. The other governors who signed onto the joint statement were Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. 

The letter paints their concern as one for workers, as the opening paragraph reads: “We the governors of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas are highly concerned about the unionization campaign driven by misinformation and scare tactics that the UAW has brought into our states. As governors, we have a responsibility to our constituents to speak up when we see special interests looking to come into our state and threaten our jobs and the values we live by.”

In contrast to the governors’ claims that unionization is anti-worker, later in the letter, NPR spoke to the workers in Tennessee, who voted yes to unionization. Governors in the South, as NPR reports, often used incentives to lure foreign automakers to the region as well as provided them with assurances that they wouldn’t have to deal with UAW unless they chose to.

President Joe Biden also weighed in on the attempts of the Republican governors to use fear-mongering tactics, releasing a statement affirming the right of American workers to choose whether or not a union represents their best interests. “Let me be clear to the Republican governors that tried to undermine this vote: there is nothing to fear from American workers using their voice and their legal right to form a union if they so choose.”

Source: Black Enterprise


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