The American union movement has just suffered one of its biggest setbacks in a long time. Yesterday the workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant voted on whether to unionize with the United Auto Workers. What is stunning is that Volkswagen supported the unionization drive, in part because Germany’s powerful car workers’ union pressured management to do so. But even with the support of both Volkswagen and IG Metall, the workers rejected UAW at 712 to 626. WSJ has more:
The defeat raises questions about the future of a union that for years has suffered from declining membership and influence, and almost certainly leaves its president, Bob King, who had vowed to organize at least one foreign auto maker by the time he retires in June, with a tarnished legacy.“If the union can’t win [in Chattanooga], it can’t win anywhere,” said Steve Silvia, a economics and trade professor at American University who has studied labor unions.
The standard complaint labor leaders offer for stagnating union power is that management opposition is responsible for stopping unionization in its tracks. That argument is not without merit in some cases. But this vote was by the workers themselves, and it makes any attempt to blame management a little weaker than union partisans want to admit. The reality is that for a whole variety of reasons, private sector unions aren’t as attractive to workers as they used to be. That’s part of the reason why less than seven percent of US private workers are currently in unions.Americans could use help in figuring out their career paths and advice on negotiating salaries. But unless the union movement can figure out a radically new approach, it’s going to be left behind.