Cyberunions Episode 85 Unionizing the South: The lessons from VW



Interview Edition

  • Chris Brooks  from Chattanooga For Workers
  • Chris gives a great historical background to the radical history of Chattanooga Tennessee
  • Stephen thinks there is 95% union density based on the history
  • Right to work is an ideology deeply ingrained in the society, local labor unions have no plans to fight right to work laws
  • Right to work is often confused with worker “at will”
  • UAW is not new to Tennessee with the GM Saturn plant, but the drive with VW sparked global interest
  • Chris describes the UAW presence is not new many small locals, but still frustrating
  • Over $570,000,000 from tax subsidies was given to VW to bring the plant there
  • Tennessee has the highest proportion of workers on minimum wage and the highest sales tax. $288,000 tax subsidies for each job created
  • Same time austerity cuts came in at the same time, so social welfare organization
  • Steal from the poor bribe the rich to provide jobs for the working people
  • The struggle by the community organization just extended to VW.
  • When the UAW came in to organize they do not see the social justice unions or community organizing or bottom up organizing
  • The business model of UAW unionizing does not fit in the local struggle.
  • In the south the company can be neutral toward unions but the society is *not* neutral
  • Numerous right wing tactics, but the right started to take leftist tactics but on the right
  • Southern Momentum is being called a Workers’ Center but it is a right wing back organization.
  • The right are using legitimate criticisms of the UAW to build an anti-union discourse
  • Where were the frustrations with UAW and the organizing
  • Lack of bottom up, media messaging from Detroit, but in the local press was local people slamming the union, the right-wing used the local voices to fight
  • UAW did not try to promote or lift up local voices for different narratives.
  • Group of labor activists created Chattanooga For Workers (CFW) adhoc organization to lift up alternative voices
  • ALEC funded event with Wall Street Journal said “unions are cancer”, CFW did a pray vigil against ALEC and UAW did not try to promote
  • The local press is so close to those in power, the south needs national news to inform people.
  • Mike Elk and Steve Greenhouse came down to try to raise the stories
  • We had a community forum about the right-wing attacks, and the UAW no show
  • CFW went directly to the workers, a meet regularly to discuss the actual conditions.
  • Labor Notes was keen on bringing the actual voices from the factory on what happened
  • Workers on hold now as the UAW tries to figure out the next steps.
  • Leaked documents show that the Governor’s chief of staff was coordinating with anti-union groups and was specifically leveraging $300 million on an SUV line with VW to work against the workers.
  • The Germans’ had no idea what they were getting into, they had no idea that the politicians would be so anti-union
  • The local corporate class view VW as a class trader
  • “Free Markets” is such bullshit, bosses should not be regulated, but workers should be.
  • The right-wing did what the UAW should have been doing in the first place
  • VW committed to the US but not the south thanks to Sen. Corker
  • National Right to Work Foundation Lawyer was overheard that Mercedes money was used to fight the unionization drive.
  • Working conditions are harsh, much like we know from UAW history that was eliminated in the 1930s
  • No place for full recovery
  • CFW talking to workers about concerted action, that rights exist without workers, things can be done.
  • Feeling amongst workers is that they cannot wait for UAW but need to take action on their own.
  • Fundraising Chattanooga for Workers supporting the VW workers that lost their jobs Please Donate! it is through the  Mercy Junction PayPal

Cyberunions Episode 84 To Where Labor Day Started



  • Met Listeners in person matt and michael both in the Chicago area
  • In fact recording from matt’s place now
  • Lots to talk about from this week in chicago
Labor Talk
  • labor notes conference
  • Stephen attended on behalf of May First / People Link
  • extensive discussion of the various workshops that Stephen attended
  • In particular the VW chattanooga panel on the UAW organizing drive met Chris who worked on the facebook Chattanooga for Workers in support of the UAW drive. Really good analysis from two workers that were in the plant organizing.
Tech Talk
  • From the CWA telecom session a clear generational gap amongst the labor activists.
  • Met some awesome folks involved in the CWA next generation
  • labor tendency to support capitalism
  • need to build and fund activist network software
  • encourage labor activists to join the Organizing Network
  • Michael will be posting our content on reddit for us since my account got blocked

Cyberunions Episode 83 What women want, we remain neutral






  • First off sorry for episode 82′s bad sound quality hopefully this time we have it sorted
  • If you missed it Cyberunions is redesigned!
  • with a resources section (was stuck in draft form for months)
  • Our new software libre alpha section where some software is tested out
  • Stephen is Learning a lot about WordPress Multisite abilities,
  • Organising network is going well and Walton writes about it

Tech Talk

  • Net Neutrality Why is this important to labor
  • labor notes conference planning
  • challenge of talking tech concerns to non-tech communities
  • issues with CWA and IBEW on net-neutrality


  • International Womens Day March 8th and where we are in relation
  • We are not advancing as we should
  • RMT’s long time activists Bob Crow passes away
  • We talk of his history and actions


  •  people are happy that we are back, we think all 1 of you ;)

New Design to a Point

This is a new design I am playing with at the moment, as the platform pro we had before no longer is supported, as since we have a history of an old theme coming back to haunt us, the new theme has been put to use.

Please let us know what you think. You may notice the new aside –> where we can label posts as audio to be view on the right side. I still need to tweak some posts so they are not so long. 

Also we are using a new WordPress Front End Editor which is likely to be part of the WordPress core. I have to say it is rather nice .

I will keep this short for you all

Every social network has an ideology

Karl Marx on Facebook. What is the ideology of your social network?

Karl Marx on Facebook. What is the ideology of your social network?

- By Walton Pantland

A social network isn’t a neutral space. It is designed for a purpose, and that purpose is ideological.

Is your social network designed by techies, out of a pure love for seeing what is technologically possible? Is it designed to bring people together, to help them organise? Or is it designed to sell them things, and to collect data? Or, more insidiously, is it designed to give the illusion of bringing people together, so that it can sell things and collect data?

If it’s collecting data, what is the date being used for? Sociological research? Control and surveillance? Marketing? Or is it to help people organise politically? Continue reading

Cyberunions Podcast Episode 82 We are REALLY back this time!

We explain where we have been
  • VW Chattanooga
  • stephen details the organizing
  • Here are many articles UAW drive at VW
  • Stephen suggests forget UAW forget majority union lets go minority union

We have returned!


Vouching for Workers (VW) fails to surpass but efforts move forward

It has been quite a while since we posted anything here, but I have to share my thoughts on the activities in a VW plant in Tennessee. If you missed the news VW decided to remain neutral for the United Auto Workers (UAW) drive to organize the VW workers to lay the path for developing the first ever Works Council in the US. Works Councils is a unique model of labor relations that stems from the Post WWII Germany. A works council is a council of people that represent the workers, but participate in the planning and development of the company. The councils themselves gain access to the financial reports of the company and are clearly informed of the companies abilities, expansions and contractions. Any union in the world would love the have that data when it is time for negotiating. Major companies in Germany are required to have works councils, and the bosses will put together their slate of candidates and the union will do the same. What occurs is a real elections to represent on the works council. So when anyone says that unions are bad for automobile production we only have to look at Mercedes, BMW and VW and realize that is a complete lie as all three have unions in Germany. VW on the other hand is unique as in in every plant in the entire world they have unions and works councils with the US as the lone exception. I find it hard to believe that unions seem to be the problem here.

The above being said the unfortunate side of the this plan to organize the VW resulted in a loss by 86 votes. This means that there is the ability to create a minority union and with a works council I think it is a great step. A minority union is part of the US National Labor Relations Act, it in fact allows a minority of workers to collectively protect themselves under the law. Let me spell this out, if a single worker complains about conditions in the workplace the boss could fire them for no reason, but if two people go together to complain about conditions they are in fact protected. This means that the minority union can gain their labor rights without a full union in place. This also means in the case of VW which is still going to seek a works council would be able to have a minority union that could develop candidates for the works council and over time might in fact be able to achieve a full majority union. I think this is a great opportunity to learn from their UE brothers and sisters in North Carolina (another right to work state) on using minority unions to improve working conditions, after all organizing is not solely about wages it is about the conditions in which we work.

Just some food for thought to the labor movement in the US, it does not hurt to try something different for a change



The Future of Cyberunions…ok maybe not the future…

Walton and I have been busy working on a number of projects, which we will happily inform in more detail when we recored again, which we think or hope will be sometime in January or February. I do not want to spend this entire post detailing it but some relates to and some relates to and where they intermix. But of course on top of that is the stuff that is a constant more than anything. So just for all out there to know we will return just have to give some time. I might in the meanwhile add some services to but I will wait til things settle before making announcement about them. You can always follows us on twitter or on friendica. Hope to bring the discussion back soon.

Read the original post and comment stream on Friendica

Cyberunions Podcast Episode 81 Take Two… We are back!

Download Ogg
Download MP3
Download Torrent
    • We apologize for the delay in recording and releasing
    • We met
    • We brainstormed
    • We drank…stephen is a light weight

  • How to stay secure from the NSA
  • Key point Encryption works…NSA is cheating
  • USi has tech plans Walton summarizes
  • Stephen tries to give the details on intended software from CiviCRM, Elgg/Lorea and CKAN

(we lose Walton and Stephen’s internet connection is cut but Stephen wraps it up)


  • Shoutout to another Labor podcast from DissentMagazine
  • Apologizes to Littlesis

We will call it a summer storm…brainstorm

Hey all as you can tell Walton and I have been off for a couple of weeks now, have no fear we are still here, we are just busy from an eventful past couple of weeks, that may impact the future of cyberunions as we know it, have no fear the podcast will continue. We are thinking about integrating some new ideas and vision for what we can be doing collectively and effective in changing the way labor unions and social movements use technology. It is very exciting…now I need to get my damn mixer fixed so I can have the conversation with Walton. We will be back up soon, just exciting stuff we hope to announce over the coming months.

In solidarity to all