UAW Win in Tennessee is Huge

Elections NLRB Unions

            Chicago           The NLRB finished counting the votes at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee near midnight, but it was clear hours before, that for the United Automobile Workers (UAW) the third time was the charm, as the “yesses” were piling up.  The final count polled 2,628 votes for the union and only 985 for the company, a smashing 73% margin.  Of the 4300 workers eligible to vote, 3653, or 85% did so, meaning that over 61% of the eligible workers were soundly for the union.  There’s no way that VW can spin this, or anyone else in Tennessee from the governor on down, as anything other than a smashing union victory.

Just like in politics, winning an election doesn’t immediately convert into all promises fulfilled.  The contract bargaining will be hard, and the union may not get everything on their wish list, but they’ll get a lot.  They have an advantage with VW, because this plant is their only one in the United States, and their only plant that is not unionized.  IG Metall, which represents the workers in Germany, where VW is headquartered, is a powerful union, and a fierce alley of the UAW, and that will make a difference as well.

It’s a good thing that the bargaining won’t start quickly, because that means the momentum can stay with the UAW, as it goes to another election in mid-May, a month away.  This time it’s a Mercedes plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the UAW has also lost previously, though only once, not twice.

Many of us can remember the earlier Chattanooga elections when the governor and others campaigned hard against the union with yard signs saying vote “no” everywhere.  This time, once again, Republican governors jumped into the fray with a “sky is falling” statement from not only Tennessee’s governor, but also the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina, claiming their business-friendly hype bubble would burst.

We hope so!

The UAW is not a gamechanger everywhere, but big victories in big plants with large workforces could be a gamechanger in many cities and states.  Having pledged more than $40 million to these organizing campaigns, with aggressive leadership, and the continuing warm glow from their successful auto strike and contracts with the Big 3 last year, for a change the odds look good for the union.  This won’t be a flash in the pan like the unsuccessful Birmingham Amazon campaigns.  The UAW is proving that it has staying power, will go back again and again until they win, and that victory is inevitable.

Another couple of wins like this one, and this could be the match that lights the prairie fire in the South.