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Should American businesses adopt a German labor model?




The rim of a wheel on VW Beetle is seen at German car maker Volkswagen's headquarters during the company's annual press conference on March 14, 2013 in Wolfsburg, northern Germany.
The rim of a wheel on VW Beetle is seen at German car maker Volkswagen's headquarters during the company's annual press conference on March 14, 2013 in Wolfsburg, northern Germany.
DAVID GANNON/AFP/Getty Images

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A Volkswagen plant in Tennessee plans to introduce more robust labor employee participation modeled on the company’s German structure. In Germany, labor relations include bodies called work councils that exist within businesses. The councils coordinate and negotiate with management, and are intended to foster the idea that employees are not adversaries, but rather valued participants.

The closest analogous groups to German work councils in the U.S. are unions, which have the ability to negotiate within an enterprise, but are often at odds with management. U.S. companies with more elaborate unionization, like Southwest Airlines and Kaiser Permanente, have seen financial growth and maintenance of high quality service.

Will Volkswagen benefit from the implementation of a German model in its U.S. plant? What is the best way to accommodate labor groups? Which practices make the most successful businesses?

Guest: 

Matt Finkin, Professor of Law at University of Illinois

Stan Greer, Senior researcher for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, an advocacy group described as analyzing and exposing the inequities of compulsory unionism.