Home US Volkswagen Workers in Tennessee Prove UAW Right with Historic Union Vote Just Before May Day

Volkswagen Workers in Tennessee Prove UAW Right with Historic Union Vote Just Before May Day

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Brian Hale

In a historic moment for workers in the South, several thousand Volkswagen workers recently voted to join a union with the United Auto Workers.

Chattanooga’s victory comes despite tough corporate campaigns and the efforts of six Southern governors to crush and intimidate workers.

Previous attempts to unionize failed, but this time something different happened.

What happened no less important is the Big Three strike last year, in which 46,000 workers in the automotive sector closing plants, seeking wage increases, better working conditions and limits on a two-tier wage system that divides workers to drive down wages.

Workers earned at least 25% salary increases, and some temporary workers almost doubled their salaries. And they won union protections for workers in the emerging electric vehicle sector.

Other view: As UAW Pressures Tennessee Volkswagen Workers to Unionize, Auto Workers Need to Be Careful

The workers did not take the bait of the Big Three executives

Workers at the Big Three were tired of being told to accept “good enough,” while profits reached a quarter of a trillion dollars in the last decade and CEOs’ pay for a week rivals the pay of workers for an entire year. In total, the victory of the strike will transfer billions in profits in the pockets of its workerswhile those corporations are expected to remain very profitable.

When Big Three executives told UAW workers that their demands could make them uncompetitive with automakers in the traditionally anti-union South, they didn’t take the bait.

Instead of pitting labor against labor, Big Three workers and their leader, Shawn Fain, approached those workers and asked them to be future members of the UAW, not competition. Volkswagen workers demonstrated that their strategy was correct.

They, too, are frustrated with executive pay. exceeding 10 million dollars a year – although they work for much less money than UAW members, they have far fewer benefits and struggle to manage time off to care for their families.

Workers are on the cusp of a unique opportunity, as unionized workers are winning, taking back a fair share of a generation of profits they were denied. This is true not only in the auto industry and in the South, but also in service industries, and a large majority of Americans are on their side.

Workers should also have the opportunity to achieve the American dream

Gallup Polls show a historic level of support for unions, with more than two-thirds of respondents expressing approval and a majority believing stronger unions are good for the country. Support is even greater among younger people, and 88% of those under 30 years of age approve of unions.

Corporations compete with each other, as they should, but their workforces should not be manipulated into becoming corporate team warriors to reduce living standards.

Letter to the editor: Critics fired and denigrated unionism at the Volkswagen plant, but workers won

By uniting across industries, workers can eliminate competitive labor costs, allowing businesses to thrive through innovation and quality, without undercutting the middle class. This raises the living standards of all workers. That is the American dream, and the Volkswagen workers in Tennessee have shown that the dream is not dead, that it is still alive.

Efforts are underway to unionize thousands of other auto workers across the South, including soon among Mercedes Benz workers in Alabama.

Brian Hale

The time is right for victory on April 19, just a few days before May Day. While celebrated virtually around the world as a day to defend workers’ rights, May Day is uniquely American, arising from a massive strike to win the eight-hour work day 138 years ago in Chicago. It was the same year that financier Jay Gould famously said, “I can hire half the working class and kill the other half.” His victory seemed unattainable in the context of the times.

Time will tell if the victory in Chattanooga is the beginning of a historic wave, but there is no doubt that it is a historic moment.

Kelcey Smith, a Volkswagen worker who voted for the union, sees it this way: “People in high places told us that good things can’t happen here in Chattanooga. They told us this is not the time to get up, this is not the place. But we got up and won. This is the time; this is the place.”

Tennessee native Brian J. Hale is president and CEO of Ullico, the only union-owned insurance and investment company in the U.S.

This article originally appeared in Nashville Tennessean: UAW vote in Tennessee: Volkswagen workers forge a path for the South

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