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