Cyberunions Episode 85 Unionizing the South: The lessons from VW

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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

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