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Failed union vote at Volkswagen's plant puts the UAW's future strategy into question

by AirTalk®

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A logo is displayed on the front grill of a brand new Volkswagen car at a Volkswagen dealership on March 28, 2011 in San Rafael, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The United Auto Workers suffered a major defeat on Friday when employees of a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee rejected plans to unionize the European-owned factory. The UAW was defeated in a tense 712-626 vote Friday night.

Breaking into the VW plant was a key part of the UAW's long term goal of expanding into foreign-owned businesses in the region. Volkswagen's management cooperated with the UAW because the company wanted its employees to form a 'work council', which coordinates and negotiates with management, and are intended to foster the idea that employees are not adversaries, but rather valued participants.

Now that the vote has failed, the UAW may face even stronger opposition in the South. The union claims the vote was unfairly influenced by threats from the state's political leadership including Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam.The union may try to void the results of the election by filing a challenge with the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees union elections.

Is this the end of the road for the UAW's plans to expand into foreign-owned plants? Do unions, particularly in the South's growing auto industry, still maintain any political clout? Why did the vote fail, particularly when management remained neutral?


Fred Wszolek, spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, an organization that advocates on behalf of business owners and opposes unionization.

Nelson Lichtenstein, History Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Work Labor and Democracy at the  University of California, Santa Barbara

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