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Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) questions members of the panel testifying before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in Washington February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
Southern auto workers may get some added power in the workplace thanks to strong unions overseas. While states like Tennessee have enacted just about every anti-union law they can think of, making it extraordinarily difficult for workers to form unions, foreign auto manufacturers can face pressure at home to take a step back and not take advantage of all those anti-union laws:
Volkswagen faces pressure from labor interests on its supervisory board to grant workers a stronger voice at the plant. And Handelsblatt, a German business newspaper, reported Monday that UAW President Bob King and five other officials discussed the Tennessee plant with the company's employee relations chief last week at VW's headquarters in Wolfsburg. [...]

German law gives labor representatives half the seats on the Volkswagen's supervisory board, where some members have raised concerns about the Chattanooga plant being alone among the company's large factories without formal labor representation.

So while American companies are refusing to sign a binding agreement making it less likely that garment workers in Bangladesh will be burned or crushed to death, German workers are exerting pressure against the regressive labor laws of another low-wage labor source: Tennessee. In the Volkswagen case, such pressure could lead not to a union with a collective bargaining agreement, but to a works council, in which worker representatives have a say in plant management.

Such a step is probably not imminent, but just the prospect of increasing worker power at the plant has Tennessee Republicans nervous; after all, the whole southern Republican pitch in recruiting companies to relocate business to their states consists of promising workers who'll accept low wages and will be too afraid to talk back. So deeply rooted is the Tennessee Republican hatred of unions, in fact, that when Sen. Bob Corker was asked about the revival of a GM plant under union contract, in Tennessee:

"On the one hand I'm happy that people have jobs," Corkers said of a recent announcement that the plant would add or keep up to 1,800 jobs to expand production. "But on the other hand I certainly hope there aren't inroads made at additional facilities."
Heaven forbid! It sure is a scary thing to have jobs coming to your state if they might give workers ideas about having a say in their wages and working conditions.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 01:15 PM PDT.

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

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