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Strauss's avatar

Who do you think cares more about the workers in Tennessee, the United Auto Workers or Senator Bob Corker, R, Tennessee?

Asked by Strauss (20324points) February 14th, 2014

Votes are being counted today, and the decision should be announced this evening, for collective bargaining in the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. Senator Bob Corker has been “campaigning”, with predictions of dire circumstances if the unionization passes. This would allow the plant to have a “works council” similar to the way the home plants in Germany are organized.

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30 Answers

Brian1946's avatar

I’d say that the UAW and VW care more about the workers than Corker does.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Corker certainly doesn’t. He’s been doing everything he can to destroy unions and labor rights since he got into office.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I beg to differ, the UAW will drive VW out of Chattanooga just like they did with other auto makers in Detroit. This is NOT a good thing if the UAW enters the area. powerful Unions poison the well but they had their place back in the day and did do some VERY good things. Now they are parasitic and destructive to both the economy and to the working public. There are still some good unions around (of which I am a member) sadly, the UAW is not one of them.

dabbler's avatar

Corker is full of the same propaganda that has been killing the middle class in the U.S. for thirty years. The only reason jobs might leave the U.S. would be because of the trade policies that seem to found in the same bucket as the anti-people policies.
The advantages that global corps have built into trade laws (i.e. removing tariffs and reducing quality and safety standards for imports) make the take-it-or-leave race-to-the-bottom threats possible.

VW is a European company that runs itself longer term than most American manufacturers (in large measure due to the participation of labor in all major decisions). They will know how to make it work.
The UAW has its flaws but the workers deserve representation. The UAW is certainly not intentional working against the workers’ benefit, the way Corker’s crowd is, certainly.

VW has a structure for integrating worker input that they use all over the world.
The UAW union is hardly in conflict with that.
Automobile manufacture is so highly automated that labor costs are not the portion that they used to be. VW knows if they have they can raise wages some. The U.S. market for VW cars is big enough that it will still be cost-effective to make them in Tennessee.

CWOTUS's avatar

What in the world does it matter “who cares more” about the workers? None of these people – and let me be clear on that: none of the politicians, the union bosses or the auto company executives – have a monopoly on “care for the workers”. By that I don’t mean “they don’t care”; I’m sure that each of them cares in his or her own particular way. But it doesn’t matter “who cares more”.

All of these people have their own agendas: The senator would like to keep unions from gaining ground in Tennessee; the union leaders want to expand their reach (and their own salaries) and the VW executives want to ensure the highest possible return on investment, as well as the maximum production for the least cost. None of those is necessarily “a bad thing”, but the workers are secondary to the agendas. The workers are always secondary.

That’s why I think that senators, union leaders and corporate executives should all be given much less power over our lives, period. But I feel like I’m tilting at windmils again.

Strauss's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me powerful Unions poison the well…

I think people lose fact of what the unions represent in the first place, which is collective bargaining. Without some kind of collective bargaining, the workers have no choice but to take what’s offered to them or leave for another job. It takes a powerful union to deal equally with powerful corporations.

It reminds me of the time I was in training at a now-defunct telecom company. The instructor said something to the effect that “We do not want unions. We would rather deal with each of you individually!”

zenvelo's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me I think you fail to understand what VW would require the UAW to do, which is what has been down elsewhere: effectively, works councils where labor has both an opportunity and an obligation to be part of the decision making, and being rewarded for success. It’s a complete restructuring of the labor agreements to be more like Germany and Japan.

I’d agree with @CWOTUS that only the workers care about the workers, but unlike a lot of corporations, VW said it would be neutral because they saw a productivity gain if the UAW took over.

JLeslie's avatar

I think Corker cares, I just think he is in no position to guarantee what VW will produce where. If VW says they have not decided yet if a product will be produced in TN or MX we have to believe them. I think politically the union terrifies any republican politician and the republican party in general, because people seem to tend to vote regarding their pockets most of all, and if those workers become union their party affiliation might waver.

If the union is voted in it will be very interesting in that fairly red state. I actually think it will be best for workers if the union doesn’t come in and they can get some concessions they may be looking for from VW without the union. Are they looking for anything? Maybe the employees were already relatively happy with their jobs. As far as I know VW is a German company still, it would be pretty dissappointing if they weren’t treating the employees well. Germany has so many employment laws, you would think some carry over as simply company policy. The way for VW to keep the union out is to treat the employees fairly in the first place. Who wants to pay union dues and make management and staff adversarial if there is no need to.

The union is similar to Corker in that it wants to survive. It is it’s own business in and of itself. There might be people within the union who really care about the workers, but for some people working for the union is just a job.

LostInParadise's avatar

Why is it assumed that worker interests must collide with those of the company? Workers have a vested interest in increasing productivity. When the company makes more, it can afford to pay higher salaries. The German model of unions sees them as agents working with management. When workers feel they have a stake in what happens, they perform better. This has contributed to Germany’s reputation for producing high quality goods. Corker’s reasoning is way off the mark.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Nothing quite displays the agenda of the GOP than its rabid hatred of unions. As seen from the comments here, the party has effectively convinced a considerable portion of the voting public that unions are vile, corrupt and serve no useful purpose. And once again, we bump into the inevitable fact that the more backward and impoverished the territory, the greater and more bitter the hostility toward anything union. Ironic coincidence? The wise politicos in Tennessee even threaten to strip VW of the tax incentives the state proffered to lure the beetle folks to the South if the plant goes union. This whole fury is actually about the horrors anticipated with a major union gaining a toe hold in the right to work South. As with lynching and segregation, the land of gentility and magnolia blossoms must helplessly endure the erosion of another of its noble traditions. But seriously, it makes sound political sense for ANY red politician to resist the incursion of ANY organization so powerfully aligned with their blue opponents as is the UAW. The Germans for their part, must find this entire thing rather baffling. I think its a real hoot that the folks in the South didn’t anticipate that luring factories from such a successfully socialist country as Germany, might result in corporate employers who lack the appropriate “plantation” perspective regarding labor relations.

ragingloli's avatar

powerful Unions poison the well but they had their place back in the day and did do some VERY good things. Now they are parasitic and destructive to both the economy and to the working public.
That must be why Germany, which is dominated by powerful unions, is such an economic hell hole.
Oh wait, we are the world’s second biggest exporter and Europe’s largest economy.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli That is German unions. Many unions in America are destructive. The auto unions here were great in their beginnings, but then became selfish, inflated organizations, as bad as the people running the businesses themselves. They went too far with demands and helped to destroy the business here. If good working conditions can be had without a union I think it is better not to have the third party in the mix. If companies are horrible then they are asking for a union and I think it is necessary. From what I understanding VW is paying better wages than most businesses in Chattanooga for similar skill levels.

ragingloli's avatar

Not buying it.
I think the reason why your economy is in the tatter is that you are producing dreck that no one wants to buy. Nothing to do with unions.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli For sure part of the problem was we were producing drek.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@ragingloli I have to deal with unions and union workers everyday I go to work. 80% of the time things are ok but 20% of my work week is dealing with labor squabbles, grievances, shoddy work and downright ineptitude. The large unions here are very political, they hold even small jobs hostage. most of the time there are no consequences if they do a bad job, or any job. What happens is there are a good number of workers who simply milk and draw out the work. If I get a few good workers (and it’s only about half the time) I can’t directly ask for them. If I have a job that has a couple of plumbing fittings and wiring I have to hire both a pipe fitter and an electrician. If I try to be reasonable and do one or the other myself they file grievances. If I contract guys from the local union hall and bring them to a out of town job they usually make me use guys from their local hall, after they let me work the guys I have already hired a day or so just so they can file grievances. It’s really a f’ing mess here. I generally let work go if I have to deal with the unions too much. As far as unions in this part of the south they are here already. Don’t get me wrong I am a member of a small engineering bargaining unit and am not strictly anti-union. I have seen first hand the good that has done. I have also seen how corrupt, sour and counter-productive the large, powerful unions have become. If I’m dealing with this at my level it is no wonder why American work is outsourced. In Germany it may be different and I’m guessing it is because you have very good labor laws unlike the free for all we have here. The best thing the workers at that plant can do is reject the UAW and form their own collective bargaining.

Darth_Algar's avatar

You have to hire a plumber and an electrician to do plumbing and electrical work? Oh the horror!

JLeslie's avatar

@Darth_Algar It is very frustrating when employees start following their job description so closely that they refuse to do anything outside of their job description, or when managers lose flexiibility to get work done efficiently because of union rules.

It’s ridiculous that @ARE_you_kidding_me is going to have a grievance filed against him if he does some work himself.

Darth_Algar's avatar

If “electrician” is not in your job description then absolutely you should not be doing electrical work. Above all else it’s a liability issue.

ragingloli's avatar

Yeah, it is just OUTRAGEOUS that I can not have my local butcher perform brain surgery. Damn unions!

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Darth_Algar It depends how far you take it. For a proper plumbing “job” you 100% need a qualified person. Just changing a couple of fittings out does not require that. Many companies have multi-skilled workers who are qualified and can cross over and do various things. They are usually not part of a union and this is mainly because the unions have a strangle hold on “their” work. They take the stance that if you are not part of their union you are not entitled to do the work even if you are licensed and fully qualified.

JLeslie's avatar

@Darth_Algar It depends on the thing, for electrical work I agree, for sweeping a floor I don’t. It can get as bad as that.

The auto union got benefits for employees and retired employees that cannot be sustained. They counted on business always being fantastic, just like the people at the top who produced the substandard cars and did not acknowledge the competition coming into the country that was increasingly taking market share. Now, people who counted on certain benefits from retirement are SOL. That is much worse than not having those promises to begin with. The auto industry definitely needed a union back in the day, no question, but the union and the people who were running the big three all were screwing up for a long long time. Ford did better at turning things around before it became dire.

I lived in MI in the late 80’s and I was shocked at how Michiganders were clueless to how the rest of the country, especially the coasts, viewed American cars. How much they hated the Japanese, more than the Germans, and it almost made them blind to understanding why the Japanese were doing well. They functioned in denial in Detroit and inflated egos.

I own a Ford truck. Overall, I love it. It’s a 2012 model and I bought it new. The emergency brake pull to release it didn’t work right when I bought it. We realized within a few days. Turned out a lot of people had complained about the same thing so a better part was being put in to replace the old one they didn’t tell us that when we bought it, but if you bring the car in complaining about it they will fix it. The heated seats heat very unevenly. The service guy agreed with me when I demonstrated the problem, but it isn’t something fixable at this time. The sun visors were weak and didn’t stay in place well. They replaced them. The radio started to malfunction within the first year. The windshield wiper fluid had a problem recently. I’ve owned 6 Japanese cars (I think) and none of them had problems like this ever. Nothing, never one problem, until they had a few years on them and things had to be changed like brake pads, a filter, etc. basically normal maintanence. One time my Nissan did have a recall on the front seat, that’s all I can think of. I had had no problem with it though.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@JLeslie That is the long and short of the UAW. I’m the grandson of two UAW workers and I am just old enough to remember them talking about what happened to a good number of family, friends and neighbors when the factories started to close. My first car was a Ford, 2nd a Chrysler and 3rd a Nissan. I have owned two Nissans since. One of my good friends who is a union electrician and a little older used to say how tires would get slashed on Jap cars during all of this. What really happened is the large unions made many workers feel like it was ok to s**t where they eat while the union officials became politicians.

JLeslie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me It threw me when I was living in Michigan how much they hated the Japanese. Even if you talked about WWII they focused on the Japanese. Since I am Jewish the focus of conversations growing up regarding things to boycott was always about German products. My older relatives would not buy a German car.

dabbler's avatar

Some of the differences between the effectiveness of unions in Europe, in particular Germany, have to do with the difference in corporate structures.
In Germany AT LEAST 50% of the board of directors are labor representatives, by law.
(p.s. They are that way in Germany because WE, the U.S., set them up that way after WW II)
Their worker unions are more effective because they feel, and are, more empowered, and while there are always power struggles in any organization, the benefit of genuine cooperation is a lot more apparent when you are not considered adversarial. In the U.S. worker unions have to constantly put their attention to worker survival rather than long term prosperity because of the extreme hostility they face. The character of unions in the U.S. is different as a result.

So German corporations, and unions, make different decisions. When business slows down everyone takes a pay cut and shorter shifts until business picks up – nobody loses their job and is out on the street. The C-level execs make about 40x what the average worker makes, not well over a thousand as they do in the U.S. The products and policies reflect a mindset that is in the game for the long haul.

In the U.S. model the C-level staff are on corporate boards of other companies and vice-versa, so those folks are looking out pretty much only for each other and jockeying the company around for the next quarterly report on which their incentive packages are based. The workers are typically treated as a necessary evil, an expense to be minimized or done away with if at all possible. If the C-levels run a company into the ground, they get golden parachute severance packages and new jobs at their buddies’ companies, and the workers are out on the street.

bossob's avatar

Unions aren’t the problem, the union leaders are. Government isn’t the problem, politicians are. Corporations aren’t the problem, corporate management is. Greed and avarice permeate their existence so thoroughly that they become morally bankrupt.

And we, the union members, voters, and employees are the problem for allowing them to them to get away with it.

What a mess.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@bossob I would also add that the way Unions, Gov’t and corporations are structured (AKA what ideology influenced their set-up) is also a large factor.

Paradox25's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me The problem with multitasking is that many employers push this to the limit. I think I know what I’m talking about since I’m over 40 and have been working in the industrial maintenance field for close to 20 years.

The fact remains that many non-union employers have unrealistic expectations of their maintenance crews. I’ll use just one example, diesel mechanics simply do not make good electricians most of the time. I’ve seen a couple of these guys get hurt, blow up electrical components and make other mistakes when performing serious electrical work.

The fact is that no matter how fancy of an electronic/electrical degree that one has, if the person has been fixing diesel equipment for most of their maintenance careers they are not going to be proficient enough, and to perform on a safe enough level for a trade that requires many years of devoted experience just to grasp the basics. I’m not even going to bother with my many other examples here.

I’m neither pro nor anti-union since I have worked for both sides, and I have complaints on both sides of the fence, but I try to look at the issue of multi-skilled craftsman with a little bit of common sense. The fact remains that no matter how many disciplines a craftsman is good at, they’re not going to be experts at everything. This goes way beyond performing basic repairs in each trade while being proficient at one from my experience. Many non-union employers today have the unrealistic expectation that they’ll get a journeyman or master of multiple trades that require many years of experience. On top of this they only want to pay you like $15 to $20 an hour.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Paradox25 I agree 100% I know that does not work. A little cross over is ok though especially if it is something really simple. Having someone who can be an expert in one area and also proficient in others is a massive help. I have a big problem when management tries to get people to do things they are not qualified for and as you have said it does happen a little too often. I also have a problem when unions dictate that only an electrician can touch their work. The qualified individuals need do all of the skilled/dangerous work but I have no problem helping them pull wire through conduit myself under their direction when that is really unskilled labor.

Paradox25's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Yeah some union companies take their protocols to the limit. I guy I had worked with some ten years ago told me of how the PPL nuclear plant had a strict protocol where if a motor needed to be replaced the electricians had to wait for the millwright crew just to disassemble the pecker head.

non_omnis_moriar's avatar

My father was a marine in WWII and returned and took an apprentice level position that would train him to work as a tool and dye maker. It was a very tiny company. He switched to a slightly larger company but never made enough to see a doctor or a dentist. Then his “shop” joined UAW. The really important quality of our lives really changed. We got health insurance and dental and his work hours became steady enough he was able to take a second part time job and ultimately save for a house.

I vote union.

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