mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
decline of the unions
Workers Deal Massive Blow to United Auto Workers

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • bigfire

    As I’ve read elsewhere, worker in this VW plant aren’t necessary opposed to union representation. The only conclusion is that they reject UAW representation due to its many conflicted interests. They just don’t trust UAW.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The Labor Gang monopolies should all have to face anti-trust laws like any other monopoly, and be broken up so they can’t extort money from employers, consumers, and taxpayers.

  • Pete

    What a St. Valentine’s Day gift to the UAW.

    Instead of the cake-walk it was expecting, given the overt support the union had from VW’s senior management in Germany, the union goons got a black eye.

    Imagine if there was a federal right-to-work law on the books. Private sector unions were virtually disappear over night.

  • Bruce

    There might be a number of things at work here. Workers may resent the bloated salaries of union heads. Many may also resent having their dues confiscated and spent on Democrat politicians.

  • Atanu Maulik

    Workers are getting wiser. Good for them.

    • Kavanna

      That’s been true of American workers for a long time. This generation remembers their parents’ and grandparents’ unions as they actually were — stiffling, often thuggish and racist, and spectaculaly greedy — not as the academic left keeps fantasizing.

  • Boritz

    They declined to be more like GM. Go figure.

    • TommyTwo

      They’d have to decline to be more like GM. 🙂

  • John Stephens

    All the opposition had to do was say one word to win: DETROIT.

    • Bruce

      I did not see the quote, but a buddy of mine said that he saw a quote where one of the workers who voted no said, “Why would I want to buy a ticket on the Titanic?”

  • free_agent

    A union can’t thrive unless it can organize all of the businesses that compete with each other. So far, we don’t have any world-wide unions…

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service