Volkswagen. Auto workers deal a strong blow to anti-union policy in the United States

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After several failed attempts in previous years, a majority of workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted last Friday to join the UAW. This is a strong blow to the strong anti-union policy pursued by businessmen and governors of the American South.

Last Friday, auto workers in the southern United States celebrated late into the night. After several failed attempts over the previous years, workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, finally voted by a large majority to join the United Auto Workers (UAW). This plant was the only Volkswagen company in the world that did not join a trade union. This is due to the strong anti-union policy that exists in many southern states of the United States and which businessmen and conservatives actively support.

The workers' victory last Friday means a major blow to this anti-union policy and the wave of organizing could now extend to the Mercedes-Benz plant, which is the next to go to the vote in Alabama.

Union storm in the south

A three-day unionization vote at Volkswagen ended last Friday in a landslide victory for the union, with 2,628 votes in favor and 985 votes against. This is the first time that workers at a foreign-owned car factory in the south of the country have joined a union. The vote in Chattanooga was the first in an ambitious campaign launched by the UAW that seeks to unite 13 plants including Volkswagen, Mercedes, Tesla, BMW, Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai, with a total of 35 plants yet to be organized across the United States. . This campaign began after the massive strike carried out by the union in September last year against the “big three” auto companies in Detrito, the historical companies: Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (Jeep).

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The UAW's next scheduled union vote will be at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, where 5,000 workers will vote May 13-17. The company has already launched its anti-union campaign, and a senior official said in a statement to workers: “I don't believe the UAW can help us be better.” The interesting thing about this process is that, by the union's own admission, it was not the leaders who organized the vote but rather ordinary workers who lobbied to open up the unionization process, which the United States required by law.

Before winning at the Volkswagen plant, governors of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas They issued a joint letter Criticizing the union for having “special interests that seek to enter our states and threaten our jobs,” in a last-ditch attempt to avoid the defeat they finally suffered days later.

All of these states, and many others across the country, have long passed the law known as Right to Work, which despite its confusing name, aims to ban union membership and mandatory union dues, arguing that organizing is bad for workers. workers and that each person must individually negotiate his rights with the companies in which he works.

The setback from the Volkswagen win is so great that conservatives and business leaders are despairing. Now they are seeking to deepen the ban with all kinds of threats, but the union wave is already underway and includes a confrontation with powerful businessmen like Elon Musk who has so far prevented workers in their factories in the United States from organizing. This battle is just beginning because it also includes a transition plan towards the production of electric cars, which may mean the layoff of large numbers of workers and the spread of precarious employment, which is necessary not only to organize at the national level, but also to coordinate with other parties. Factories in Mexico, as in Asia, which are directly linked to the general production chain. Moreover, this process will also require strict scrutiny from workers leading the union which, despite recent victories, has a long history of making labor gains, which is what drove the struggles against the Big Three in Detroit last year.

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President Biden also sought to capitalize on the outcome of this vote in the middle of an election year. Biden maintains good relations with the head of the UAW union, Sean Fine, and he actually appeared last year at a sit-in in Detroit, trying to appear as a “friend of the workers” to remove Trump’s campaign file, even though only a few months before, he had banned railway workers. Iron under the law of strike.

For more than fifty years, the southern United States has been an attractive location for foreign automobile companies, offering tax breaks and cheaper, non-union labor. The “earthquake” caused by the victory in Tennessee, the first in decades, threatens to begin to break down the strict anti-union policy in the South.

Sacha Woodward

"Wannabe writer. Lifelong problem solver. Gamer. Incurable web guru. Professional music lover."

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