After last week’s stinging defeat, the United Auto Workers, aka the UAW, were singing the blues. Mixed into those blues, UAW President Bob King was performing a bit of the sour grapes serenade:
Mr. King blamed Republican lawmakers for the loss. They made numerous anti-union arguments and a few threats to discourage workers from unionizing. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, contended that auto parts suppliers would not come to the Chattanooga area if that meant being located near a unionized VW plant. Senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, said VW executives had told him the plant would add a second production line, making sport utility vehicles, if workers rejected the U.A.W. Mr. Corker and some outside conservative groups told workers that the U.A.W. had contributed to the struggles of Detroit’s automakers and would make VW less competitive, a view echoed by some workers.
Adding to the anti-union pressure, Bo Watson, a state senator who represents a Chattanooga suburb, said the Republican-controlled Legislature was unlikely to approve further subsidies to Volkswagen if the plant unionized. Some workers feared that his threat would cause Chattanooga to lose the planned S.U.V. line to a VW plant in Mexico.
“We are outraged that people in the political arena decided that they were going to threaten workers and that they were going to threaten the company,” Mr. King said. “The threats against the workers were what shifted things.”
It’s dishonest for Mr. King to say that “threats against the workers” shifted the race. These politicians simply highlighted the fact that companies don’t like dealing with unionized companies. That’s just reality.
Mr. King won’t admit it but this is humiliating to the UAW. The company didn’t campaign against unionization. Still, the workers rejected unionization by a 53.2%-46.8% margin. When the workers reject unionization despite the company not taking a position on unionization, they’re sending a clear message that they aren’t interested in paying union dues.
There are other implications to this defeat:
For months, U.A.W. organizers have been contacting workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., with the hope that it might soon follow VW into the union fold.
That hoped-for momentum disappeared in Tennessee.
What’s worse for unions is that their allies in the Democratic Party are rejecting them in favor of deep-pocketed environmentalists. That’s happening here in Minnesota and it’s happening with the Keystone XL Pipeline project.