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WORKER COUNCILS, PROJECT TRINITY AND SCAB CITY, TENNESSEE

April 8, 2014

WORKER COUNCILS, PROJECT TRINITY AND SCAB CITY, TENNESSEE
Volkswagen was agreeable to a vote of its workers recently to unionize at its plant in Scab City, aka Chattanooga, Tennessee, but Republicans U.S. Senator Corker and Governor Haslam had other ideas. Corker, former mayor of Scab City, openly threatened to withhold economic incentives previously promised to Volkswagen if the company allowed their workers to unionize. Governor Haslam, who under a secret program known as Project Trinity, was set to offer Volkswagen $300 million in state incentives if the company would build a proposed new SUV plant on its expansive 1,400 acre lot in Scab City subject to the condition that Volkswagen would hire 1,350 full-time jobs at the new plant – sounds good so far – but the whip cracker language in Project Trinity goes like this: “The incentives. . . . are subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.” Translation: “Works Council is what the Germans call unions, so what the governor was really talking about was his right to veto any union representation at the new SUV plant on pain of withdrawing the state’s $300 million dollar offer.” Union, no money; no union, $300 million.
The governor withdrew the $300 million offer to Volkswagen but denied that his withdrawal had anything to do with the union vote, stating that the withdrawal of the offer was before the union election (as though timing were the issue). Nashville Channel 5 came up with an investigative report that laid waste to the governor’s claim that such incentives were not related to Volkswagen’s rejection of unionization, proving that his claim was and is false because the language of the Project Trinity program itself sets a condition that talks between Volkswagen and its workers were to be “concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee,” veiled language that really says that if Volkswagen allows a union, then the state’s further economic incentive offers are or can be withdrawn. As an anti-labor right to work state, “to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee” can only mean that Volkswagen is to operate with a non-union workforce, i.e., politicians will decide the question of union representation between employees and employers in the state of Tennessee even though they are not party to such contracts. A clearer case of intimidation and interference would be difficult to conjure.
Meanwhile, Senator Corker was running around the state giving speeches that openly threatened withdrawal of current economic incentives to Volkswagen if the plant in Scab City unionized and UAW were recognized as the collective bargaining agent for Volkswagen’s work force. Byzantine anti-labor policies of the state of Tennessee must be observed! Back to new feudalism! Up with the drawbridge!
To flesh out the final irony: The Germans in Germany are far more democratic with their labor policies than states in this country; every corporate board there where workers are involved must contain representatives of the “work council” (German for unions) to assist in running the plants. Management and unions there are models of cooperation rather than antagonism. Result? Wages are high, the middle class is rapidly building; the economy is robust; profits are good and Germany is prospering in this age of globalization, while the State of Tennessee with its right to work and other feudal and Dark Ages policies hearkening to serfdom of old is interfering with employment relationships that are none of its business. The good news? Workers councils (unions in Germany) are threatening to veto any further Volkswagen expansion into such “worker-unfriendly” states in the future. Good for them! Agreed! GERALD E

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