If Workers Can’t Organize in Tennessee, Volkswagen May Take Business Elsewhere

Alex Wolff

Volkswagen's head labor representative announced Wednesday morning that the German auto manufacturing company may look to build future plants in union-friendly pockets of the country. It's a hopeful turn of events for members of the labor community, who had been dealt a bitter blow last Friday when workers at VW's Chattanooga plant voted against unionizing with the United Auto Workers (UAW). The union and progressives nationwide largely blamed the defeat on loaded anti-union comments from the state's right-wing politicians prior to the election. Reuters continues: German workers enjoy considerable influence over company decisions under the legally enshrined "co-determination" principle, which is anathema to many politicians in the U.S. who see organized labor as a threat to profits and job growth. Chattanooga is VW's only factory in the U.S. and one of the company's few in the world without a works council. "I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again," said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's works council. "If co-determination isn't guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor" of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW's supervisory board, said. Should Volkswagen establish a works council in Chattanooga, it would be the first on American soil.

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Alex Wolff is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.
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