(02/13/14) - The United Auto Workers union has spent a lot of time and energy in Chattanooga, Tennessee recently. Workers at the Volkswagen plant are being asked to let the UAW represent them, but those efforts and the response to them have people taking up sides in the city.
The outcome of that vote could have a big impact on the future of the UAW. Workers there are deciding if they want the union to serve on a labor council.
"In Germany, you have a workers council that gets together with management and makes decisions about work rules, benefits, things like that," said Dr. Chris Douglas, UM-Flnit economics professor.
And the UAW is the only organization Volkswagen wants Chattanooga workers to consider.
"The union really needs this win because of the decline in membership they've seen in 30-some years," Douglas said.
Anti-union sentiment is still strong in Tennessee and many politicians oppose the UAW's potential presence in the plant. In fact, billboards around Chattanooga imply Detroit's bankruptcy can be blamed on the union.
"Some of these legislators out of that state are making comments suggesting that if the members vote to belong to the UAW some of the tax incentives they've been given down there will be taken away. Talk about un-American! Talk about wrong. Probably should be illegal if it's not. How do they do that? How do people not see how wrong that is," said Norwood Jewell, UAW Region 1-C director.
"We don't believe legally you can have the German style work council here in the United States. I believe there are other alternatives for workers to be sure their voices are fully heard," said Maury Nicely, of the anti-union organization Southern Momentum spokesman.
If the vote is successful, it would be the first foreign-based auto plant with UAW representation. Voting started Wednesday and will finish Friday night. The UAW has not said when the results of the election will be announced.
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