Friday, February 14, 2014

Republicans in Tennessee Lose All Pretense of Not Using Government to Extort Citizens – Threaten Economic Harm is Auto Plant Unionized

The Disgusting and the Despicable – That’s Republican Attitudes Towards Basic Employee Rights

Update:  In a relatively close vote the VW workers voted against forming a union.  This may have been due to the embedded dislike of unions in the area or the economic intimidation of government.  The benefit here is that Republicans who espouse keeping government from interfering in business activity have been exposed for the hypcrites they are.

The right of workers in America to unionize was gained after a long and sometimes bloody fight.  Those opposed to unionization saw no reason not to use government, and sometimes government troops and government inspired and supported violence to put down the union movement.  But in America we cherish rights, including the right to organize.  So now workers have the right to vote to be represented by a union.  It seems like basic democracy in action.

But Republicans hate unions, hate the fact that labor has a voice.  And so with an upcoming vote in Tennessee on whether or not to unionize a VW plant, Republicans in high government positions have flat out told the workers that if they exercise their basic right to vote in a union government will punish them with harm to the local economy.

State Senator Bo Watson, who represents a suburb of Chattanooga, warned on Monday that if VW’s workers voted to embrace the U.A.W., the Republican-controlled Legislature might vote against approving future incentives to help the plant expand.
“The members of the Tennessee Senate will not view unionization as in the best interest of Tennessee,” Mr. Watson said at a news conference. He added that a pro-U.A.W. vote would make it “exponentially more challenging” for the legislature to approve future subsidies.
A loss of such incentives, industry analysts say, could persuade Volkswagen to award production of a new S.U.V. to its plant in Mexico instead of to the Chattanooga plant, which currently assembles the Passat.

And no this is not the ranting of a crazed local radical, it is a position supported by the Republican Senator and Governor.

At a news conference on Tuesday, United States Senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga and a Republican, also called on VW employees to reject the union. He called it “a Detroit-based organization” whose key to survival was to organize plants in the South. . . .

Concerned that a U.A.W. victory would hurt Tennessee’s business climate, Gov. Bill Haslam has warned that auto parts suppliers might decide against locating in Chattanooga because they might not want to set up near a unionized VW plant.

And one interesting aspect of the issue is that the employer is on the side of, well on the side of democracy and worker’s rights.

“Our works councils are key to our success and productivity,” said Frank Fischer, Volkswagen Chattanooga’s chief executive and chairman. “It is a business model that helped to make Volkswagen the second-largest car company in the world. Our plant in Chattanooga has the opportunity to create a uniquely American works council, in which the company would be able to work cooperatively with our employees and ultimately their union representatives, if the employees decide they wish to be represented by a union.”

This is in large part because in Germany companies see workers as an asset, as partners, as men and women who are integral to the operations and profitability of the company.  In Germany the labor force is heavily unionized and the economy is extremely successful. 

Of course for Republicans that is a terrible situation, and if the economy has to suffer so that they can get their way on unions, too bad.  After all, none of the government officials fighting basic decency and democracy are in any danger of losing their fantastic government jobs.

And what about conservative principles that say government should stay out of business matters in the private sector, that if a company and its workers want to enter into an arrangement that is satisfactory to both parties government has no role?  Like all conservative principles they melt in the face of the heat of hypocrisy.

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