Poor Tennessee governor Bill Haslam. As a Republican governor of a red state with Republican super-majorities in both chambers of the state General Assembly, the last thing he wants is for one of his state's most important employers to open the door to outside agitators and such. Volkswagen has been in negotiations with the UAW to offer representation for the workers at its Chatanooga plant, and apparently a deal is close. The arrangement would set up a labor board for the plant, which is a common mechanism for conducting dialog between labor and management in Germany. IG Metall, a large German union that represents German VW workers, is supportive of the plan, and VW execs are making encouraging noises. It would be a pretty big deal for Southern auto workers to organize, even if the labor board model is seen as a somewhat attenuated form of worker representation. The region is notoriously hostile to organized labor, and several Southern states have made this a selling point in their efforts to attract foreign auto makers. If VW workers successfully organize and the plant doesn't spontaneously implode, what kind of message would that send to workers in plants run by Nissan (TN and MS), Honda (AL), Toyota (MS, AL, KY, TX), Mercedes (AL)?

Not much Haslam or the Republican legislators can do about it. TN is already a "right to work" state, which is the usual method for pols to undermine organized labor. So, resort to the bully pulpit:

I've talked to a number of employees in Chattanooga, and they are very comfortable with the way things are now...I would hate for anything to happen that would hurt the productivity of the plant or to deter investment in Chattanooga.
So, the best Haslam comes up with is a thinly veiled threat and an unsupported assertion that workers are happy without representation.

Sorry, but invoking happy workers perfectly satisfied with their own exploitation (or else!) strikes an awfully sour chord, coming from a Southern plutocrat.

So shove it, Bill.

Originally posted to Sunny Volanakistan on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 05:02 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Three Star Kossacks.

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