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Shorter Republican Party: “Unemployment Before Unions!”

[ 133 ] February 10, 2014 |

The response of Tennessee Republicans to the UAW organizing campaign with Volkswagen approval in Chattanooga lays bare just how much the Republican Party hates organized labor:

A state senator said today that future financial incentives for expanding Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant may hinge on how workers vote this week on whether to accept the United Auto Workers.

Should workers vote for UAW representation, “I believe any additional incentives from the citizens of the state of Tennessee for expansion or otherwise will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee senate,” said State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga.

Also, state Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, urged VW workers to vote “no” on the UAW.

“The taxpapers of Tennessee reached out to Volkswagen and welcome them to our state and our community. We are glad they are here. But that is not a green light to help force a union into the workplace. That was not part of the deal,” the House majority leader said at a press conference.

Now I am strongly opposed to incentives to get companies to move around the globe. But to pull those incentives and basically ask Volkswagen to close the plant and send the manufacturing to Mexico is a new low for Republicans. They would prefer massive unemployment to workplace representation.


Comments (133)

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  1. Linnaeus says:

    The GOP’s going full metal neofeudal now.

  2. Malaclypse says:

    There’s a line between villainy and cartoonish supervillainy, and they managed to cross it.

  3. Oh the irony is rich. Outside interference, free market, blah blah.

  4. Gwen says:

    If we ever get around to making any kind of pro-labor reforms to the Taft-Hartley Act (much less repealing it, which I think we’d agree isnt’ going to happen), there needs to be a provision forbidding state and local governments from conditioning business incentives on whether or not the shop is unionized.

    (I think this can be justified as a sort of negative-Commerce Clause restriction on state power).

  5. Other Chuck says:

    Agreed, it goes well beyond economics. They have an obsession with asymmetric power relationships. They need to trample people and see them suffer. It’s what gets them off. That’s why they will celebrate Walmart even if they never set foot in the place. It’s the ethos that place and its ilk represent that they find so satisfying.

    • Linnaeus says:

      Corey Robin’s argument is looking more and more on the mark with every passing day.

      • Lee Rudolph says:

        And that argument is? (For the benefit of those of us who somehow can’t find the energy to keep up with the Crooked Timberwolves, be they never so wise.)

        • Gwen says:

          From “The Reactionary Mind”, in short, that the sine qua non of conservatism is keeping down the uppity peasants.

        • Linnaeus says:

          I’m referring to his book The Reactionary Mind. To give an oversimplified summary, Robin argues that conservatism (in terms of both theory and practice) is animated by a counterrevolutionary impulse. It’s more or less a reaction to emancipatory changes brought about by the liberal left, and this reaction is especially pronounced when such changes affect private realms of power,e.g., the workplace, the family, etc.

          There’s more nuance to this, but that, for me, was the core of it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Stand athwart history yelling “Stop!” in other words?

          • Hob says:

            That’s a fair summary, although “the liberal left” may not be the best phrase there– I think part of Robin’s argument is that the reactionary core of “conservative” movements ultimately doesn’t care so much about distinguishing between different strains of the left; they regard “liberal” reformers as only slightly less threatening than, say, the French Revolution (to the dismay of some Robespierres on the left). The basic threat for them is any movement of power away from the rulers/owners toward the ruled/owned, and the “private realms of power” part is how such a point of view can appeal to people who aren’t at the top of the heap.

          • I remember Noam Chomsky making the same basic argument in one of the first interviews of him I read. He argued that many attempts to roll back the regulatory state, the welfare state, etc. were against the best interests of the upper class both as individuals and as a group, but that such policies were pursued regardless in service of an overriding class interest in weakening the power of workers.

            He memorably described it as being evidence that the rich were natural Marxists in a way the working class never has been.

    • witless chum says:

      I mean, we know there’s no one single explanation of Republican behavior because people are people.

      But it really does seem like belief in the need for authoritarianism is the force that really animates the beast. The most fucked thing is that it’s not even just the leaders who seem to think this way, it’s the followers, too. I don’t think they delude themselves into thinking they’ll be running things someday, I think they really do believe that there needs to a strictly-enforced hierarchy or else anarchy will rein, dogs and cats living together, etc. And/or they’re just mad at what they see as people getting above themselves and daring to form a union or not be the right kind of Christian or have an abortion or not submit to their boss/pastor/husband/whatever personal hierarchy they’ve created. And especially if people do any of that and get away with it.

      • Linnaeus says:

        I don’t think they delude themselves into thinking they’ll be running things someday, I think they really do believe that there needs to a strictly-enforced hierarchy or else anarchy will rein, dogs and cats living together, etc.

        Yes, although I suspect such folks figure they’ll be the bailiff or the reeve if they can’t be the lord.

        • DrS says:

          Who was it that said that a well designed fascism gives every pissant an anthill to piss from?

        • Mike G says:

          Authoritarian systems have no trouble finding petty functionaries or thugs happy to lick the boots of the powerful so long as there is some group lower on the hierarchy they can beat on with impunity. Republican trash in the South are a prime example.

          The Mall-Wart ideology of cheap and oppressed labor isn’t just about economics, it’s an ideology in and of itself. When employees at a store in Quebec unionized, they shut down the store rather than recognize them.

      • advocatethis says:

        I think part of it too is the belief that people who live their lives differently think that they are better than them. They just can’t abide the thought that somebody that they think is worse than them might not know their station in life.

    • UserGoogol says:

      I think the more better way of looking at it (which is basically Corey Robin’s above-mentioned argument rephrased in different language) is that they genuinely think that when people invert asymmetrical power relationships, it is an assault to the public order in a way that businesses exploiting their workers isn’t. Most Republicans aren’t the rich and powerful themselves, and it’s not so much that they’re just toadies or suckers either, they just think that unions really are really really bad.

      So from the conservative point of view: when employees exploit their workers, that’s perhaps unfortunate, (or perhaps not: its also true that conservatives think that there are some people who just deserve what they get) but it’s just part of the way the world is, and conservatives will also generally argue that by working hard and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps they’ll be able to get out of that. But when unions enter the picture, they’re breaking the system not to make a fairer world but to allow union fatcats to take over the system, and that when unions take over, it’s no longer possible for hard work and gumption to succeed since the union will ruin everything.

      I think you’d probably agree with me that this point of view is stupid and wrong. But I think it’s more productive to understand their perspective as being more complex than just them being assholes. There is an internal logic which is more complex than just running around finding people to oppress, and you won’t understand them if you just think of them as a bunch of jerks.

      • The left is more right says:

        How dare you apply nuance to the ever pleasing simplified conservo-bashing. I think you’re on target by a large margin. Which isn’t to fully concede the viscerally satisfying simpler critique.

      • Steve LaBonne says:

        This may sometimes be what the teabagging proles and the hired politicians tell themselves. It is not what motivates the neo-feudalist 0.1 percenters who pull their strings.

        • UserGoogol says:

          Fundamentally, I don’t think politics works that way. Rich people have disproportionate influence, sure. But at the end of the day even their levers of power only go so far. People don’t form opinions just because it’s what their told, society is more complicated than that.

          And really, I think that rich conservatives are by and large true believers. They’re probably more calculating about it than the rest of society, but if an idea is persuasive enough to convince the 99.9%, why can’t the 0.1% also believe it sincerely? The rich are not superior to the rest of us, they’re just the ones lucky enough to get more money.

      • aimai says:

        I’ll go along with the nuance if you will add “and also they are assholes” because that is really the case, basically. Someone who would shut down the factory and drive it out of state over this really isn’t making some kind of historically informed utilitarian argument on the merits. They just dread permitting workers to have some say in their worklives. Because they don’t identify with workers. Full Stop. They think like owners and they see an absolute division between workers (tools) and owners (people). Far from believing that workers rise through the ranks and become wealthy they are trying to maintain a system where everyone knows their place and is forced to eat shit and die at the end of it with nothing much, not even a gold watch, to show for it.

        • BigHank53 says:

          Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.

          • SamR says:

            Nah, I actually think the opposite is true: most conservatives think they’re in heaven, and they’re serving their superiors, and they need to kick the crap out of the rebels who would dare to question God.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          The bizarro thing here is that the state GOPers are basically saying to Volkswagen itself that they actually hate their preverted Euroweenie way of doing business if it involves unions.

          VW and the UAW have come up with an approach for this plant that echoes the workers’ council model in Germany; that’s apparently unacceptable in Tennessee, where they’re open for business as long as it’s the union-bustin’ bidness of the Old South.

      • LeeEsq says:

        I think you could also add the caveat that a lot of non-rich and powerful Republicans or conservatives in general would prefer a system where they have a chance, however slight, of ending up on top rather than a system that provides them with stability in the middle and decent but non-extravagant lifestyle.

      • Team GOP says:

        Perhaps, but Republicans have been the party of “have mores” for over 100 years and they capture an increasing share of the presidential vote as you go up the income scale.

  6. Shakezula says:

    This sets a great precedent. What next, I wonders, I wonders.

    “Sure Apple, we want you to relocate in the great state of Texas, but you’ll have to get rid of any policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. And any gender, race or religion that isn’t male, white and Christian. We don’t like that sort of thing. On the other hand, feel free to dump as much toxic waste in the water supply as your little heart desires. Viva small government!”

  7. Anonymous says:

    GOP attitudes approach pure tribalism more each day. I’m starting to feel like this is a predictable consequence of losing the philosophical debate, the culture war, the business community, etcetera: as you strip away people who think conservatism “makes sense” “gets things done” or is somehow “cool” with their values, all you have left are people like Palin who just hate *you* and everything you love because you love it.

    • Shakezula says:

      Mmm. I just love breathing. Inhale, exhale. All day long. Can’t get enough of it.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      I agree 100%, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

      This is tribalist symbolism. Unionizing those manufacturers would be a huge deal, with potentially huge consequences for state politics.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Er, this isn’t just tribalist symbolism, I mean to say.

        • Anonymous says:

          The domino theory!

        • rm says:

          Yes — if one has spent any amount of time with white Chattanoogans, this is not at all surprising — and Joe is right; if the city has a major industry which is unionized it might permanently change the political culture of the city. They are marinated bone-deep in white supremacist ideology down there, and the working class whites are entirely bought into the Republican agenda that screws them over, which is okay with them as long as it screws the blacks worse. Unions are The Devil.

          The location of the VW factory is the former munitions depot where TNT was made in WWII. It’s very symbolic in the city’s history and is a vast area, so developing it is a major change in the city’s geography. If the locals become as proud of VW as Kentuckians are of Toyota, that factory is going to be a big part of the region’s culture. The local politicians are pledging massive resistance because allowing a major unionized industry threatens their way of life, as they see it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Help me: how is that more than a purely tribalist argument?

            • rm says:

              Well, it’s not just symbolic. The economic change comes first, and cultural changes follow — a big union in Chattanooga is not a nearly-consequence-free signifier but a real change. It’s not an irritant to them like the coffee-shop bike-riding hipster rock climbers one can meet downtown; instead it’s a real threat to the big-business anti-union white supremacist political order of Hamilton County. They see an economic force arriving which will make union members out of good-ol’-boy white Chattanoogan tribal members. Being in the tribe will no longer prevent the working class from supporting some progressive policies. Culture, politics, and economics are all tied up together in their motivations, but the reason this is a big deal to them is that the economic power of VW gives it the real potential for change.

      • Joe B. says:

        I agree. It would be a massive deal for VW workers in Chattanooga if they can unionize, but it might be an even bigger deal for Nissan workers in Smyrna and in Canton, Mississippi.

    • BigHank53 says:

      There’s cutting off your nose in order to spite your face, but this is more like cutting off your head in order to spite your elbow. I mean, if the there was anyone left in the middle class that didn’t know that the GOP didn’t want them to be there…

      It’s fine by me if the GOP wants to live in a third-world one-party kleptocracy. There’s a wide assortment for them to choose from. Typically, though, rulers in those places actually go to the trouble of establishing a one-party state before getting all boots-on-faces. Cart before the horse again…

  8. joe from Lowell says:

    Poor Tennessee Republicans. They tried their hardest to kill off the American auto manufacturers back in 2008-2009 on behalf of these non-union manufacturers, and what do they get? Volkswagon turns around and goes Bolshie!

    • Brandon says:

      Tennessee Republicans seem unaware that labor is represented on VW’s board thanks to German law. Of course that would mean that German manufacturing is essentially non-existent because unions kill jobs, right?!

      • sharculese says:

        When this first became an issue they basically thought the best response would be to condescend to VW, as if the company just couldn’t imagine how bad a union would be for business. And of course VW was like ‘yeah, that’s dumb,’ so now here we are.

        • Scotius says:

          After all, what would Volkwagen know about running a car company compared to a Tennessee state legislator?

        • BigHank53 says:

          I do hope the “Look, no unions!” chant is a consolation when they pull the stumps of their fingers (economically speaking) out of the garbage disposal that would result from VW decamping. For an encore they can go burn down the Nissan plant–it’s full of filthy UAW members.

      • TT says:

        German manufacturing is true Marxist Leninism because Hitler was a socialist. Didn’t you learn anything from Liberal Fascism?

      • efgoldman says:

        Tennessee Republicans seem unaware that labor is represented on VW’s board thanks to German law of any goddamned thing further away than their noses, or some random woman’s female plumbing. .

  9. Davis X. Machina says:

    I’m so old I remember when being able to join a free and independent labor union was so important that Ronald Reagan imposed economic sanctions against a government that wouldn’t recognize that right.

    Of course, the workers were Polish, not American…

  10. B. Terwilliger says:

    are they threatening revoking agreed upon incentives or stating that there won’t be any additional incentives?
    not clear from the quote

  11. KenB says:

    Not a new low. It just not usually this obvious.

  12. wengler says:

    Several of those Mexican automobile assembly plants are unionized albeit with much lower wages than their US counterparts. And of course even Wal-Mart workers in China belong to powerless state-mandated unions.

    • Warren Terra says:

      I suspect the GOP will get around to mandating “unions” that act in concert with the company to keep the worker down as soon as they learn from China et al how that works.

      • wengler says:

        Nah, unionism is anathema to rightwing authoritarian ideology.

        Communist Party states don’t have the same ideological hatred of democracy and labor, even as they are both suppressed for the sake of central planning.

  13. Lurking Canadian says:

    Nice factory you got there. Be a shame if something, you know, happened to it.

  14. patrick II says:

    But to pull those incentives and basically ask Volkswagen to close the plant and send the manufacturing to Mexico is a new low for Republicans.

    I thought the low was when republicans would rather let the entire American car industry die (in 2008/0) than have union workers keep their pensions and their jobs. They fought Obama tooth and nail on the loans that kept Chrysler and GM alive.

    • Jon C. says:

      No, see, they had principled objections to the way Czar Obummer violated two centuries of bankruptcy precedents by imposing his central planning dollars on the companies. Republicans wanted the rule of law to work and allow PRIVATE lenders to manage the companies through bankruptcy without handouts to the unions or demanding the boondoggle electric hoopties. Instead all the God-fearing, poor naive bondholders got hosed and never again will drive anything but a double-plus good F-150.

  15. Anonymous says:

    If the taxpayer pays the piper, the taxpayer calls the tune, and VW must dance to it. That’s the way it works.

    Most people despise and hate unions, which is one reason among many that Scott Walker is the next President of the United States.

    Mostly dead in the private sector, President Walker will signal the death knell of public sector unionism. It will be smashed to pieces, and conditions now prevailing in the private sector will come to the schoolhouse, police station, and post oiffice.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Even Politico, a former Christie bastion, is seeing the writing on the wall:

    Scott Walker is the man for the times.

    1) No public unionism

    2) 401(k)s for all

    3) Balanced budget in 10 years

    4) Entitlement reform

    The keystones of the 2016 GOP platform.

    • efgoldman says:

      The keystones of the 2016 GOP platform.

      But JenBob, you know that “entitlement reform” means the end of your SSI for mental illness, don’t you?
      The GOBP platform also includes burning planned parenthood employees st the stake, public chastity belt clinics, and tripling taxes on poor unemployed assholes like yourself, right? All fine with you.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      You left out the transvaginal ultrasounds…

      • efgoldman says:

        You left out the transvaginal ultrasounds…

        Me? Or JenBob. Anyway, it’s only a sub-clause in the platform; the main clause begins: “We resolve that women are chattel….”

    • Hogan says:

      Politico, a former Christie bastion

      Wow. That’s a keeper.

    • Tyro says:

      2) 401(k)s for all

      401(k)s are essentially worthless unless there is a significant employer or public contribution to them.

      Of course, I believe there should be a national, publicly-funded pension system in addition to social security. 401(k)s have turned out to be fairly pointless for all but those making more than 80-100k/yr.

      • Linnaeus says:

        And that is precisely the point of replacing pensions with 401(k)s.

      • efgoldman says:

        401(k)s have turned out to be fairly pointless for all but those making more than 80-100k/yr.

        Not strictly true, if you work for one of the few really good companies. My [very well-known] employer matches up to 10% every pay period, and also donates a 10% match of prior year total compensation (including OT and bonuses) every January. They kept it up through the worst of the recession, even though the company was bleeding money and customers. I’m an hourly drudge, never made close to $80-100k (usually about 60% of that.) And it’s true, if I’d retired at 65 in 2010, the hit I took would have been very painful. But I planned to work until 70 (next year) anyway, and I’ve made all my losses back and then some. My experience isn’t typical, YMMV, but it *is* possible on a middle class income if you’re lucky.
        And yes, I still favor a guaranteed retirement income, SS or something similar, but more generous.

      • Joshua says:

        I really think that 401k’s are next on the chopping block for companies. It will be incremental, sure. At some point, though, probably sooner rather than later, management will ask itself why it is handing out thousands of dollars to employees when they already get a salary. It’s easier politically to go from pensions to 401ks than pensions to nothing, but surely nothing is the end goal here.

        The AOL proposal got rolled back because Tim Armstrong is an idiot, but other CEOs will learn.

        • Jon C. says:

          Agree that management will find ways to chip at 401(k) plans around the margins, and that in any case 401(k)s were never designed to be the primary retirement saving system and they’re often a bad deal for rank-and-file employees who lack a strong pension.

          That said, hopefully the highly-compensated employee rules will prevent total elimination of the plans. Management may see matches as a potential target for cost reduction, but they also really hate having their own personal contributions clawed back into taxable income.

        • guthrie says:

          That depends on the clout of the companies who use the pension money. Here in the UK they’ve made it compulsory to have a pension. OF course this increases the incentive to make workers temporary, but the driver is the government realising that not enough people have pensions and the pension companies waiting for their guaranteed management fees.

    • Anonymous says:

      So none of your keystones touches Obamacare? Huh.

    • wengler says:

      Shorter platform: Eat shit America!

  17. K says:

    In most unionized places, once the union is in, workers there don’t get a choice, either pay union dues, or find work elsewhere. You don’t have to participate in union activities, but you still pay union dues, right out of your check. And about the only thing you get in return is it takes forever to fire someone. Meaning when people genuinely suck at a job, they can still linger and collect a check for years before the union will allow the company to fire them. In many cases the union itself employs the workers, and then the company employs the union as a whole. Meaning when the union decides to strike, they don’t pay the workers, nobody comes in to work. I would be happy if joining a union and paying dues was completely optional. Then unions would actually have to represent employees, and earn the dues they skim off everyones pay. Of course democrats will say that that would kill unions and thrust the American worker back to the dark ages, because thats their money source. The unions cant afford to funnel money into democrats campaign funds and actually represent the members best interests.

    • panda says:

      “Mommy why can’t I free ride like a real red-blooded American? Whyyyy?”

    • fka AWS says:

      Complete and utter bullshit.

    • Fraser says:

      “Meaning when people genuinely suck at a job, they can still linger and collect a check for years ”

      Yes, but we’re not talking about CEOs.

    • Malaclypse says:

      As a young child I wanted to be a writer because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow pongee silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle.

    • Hogan says:

      And about the only thing you get in return is it takes forever to fire someone.

      I got a 2.75% raise last July 1. I have a $5 copay for generic drugs. I get free legal services. I get 23 vacation days a year, plus four personal days. I don’t have to kiss any asses I don’t feel like kissing. All that for twelve dollars a week (and that goes up only as much as my wages go up).

      So in conclusion, ram it up your poop chute.

    • fixorated says:

      In most unionized places, once the union is in, fap fap fap fap (it) actually represent the members best interest.

    • NonyNony says:

      Meaning when people genuinely suck at a job, they can still linger and collect a check for years before the union will allow the company to fire them.

      Have you ever actually worked at a job?

      I’ve worked in a union shop (grocery store) and non-union shops (white collar programming jobs) and let me tell you – it was far easier to fire people for incompetence in a union shop than at any programming job I’ve ever had. Why? Because in the union shop the management had a clear grievance path to follow and they did. They kept records of incompetence. They documented days missed and time wasted. They worked with the employee and the union using a clear process for complaints. And so when it came time to fire someone for incompetence, they got canned.

      In every programming job I’ve had there has always – always – been at least one person that everyone knew should be fired. That everyone knew wasn’t pulling his/her weight and in fact made problems for the team and/or the company that didn’t need to be made. Never fired – I’ve left jobs where the incompetent person had been there longer than anyone else on the team. Why? Because the manager didn’t have a clear path for what to do. Or HR would dither about firing someone. Or there might be worries about lawsuits because, frankly, the employee handbook was shit as far as a contract for employment went and the HR people weren’t actually qualified to say whether or not the employee was in violation if they put in a full 8 hour day and looked like they were working the whole time but did no productive work at all. Or because they were the manager’s drinking buddy and no complaints from anyone on the team was going to change a thing.

      So I don’t get this “unions protect incompetent people” schtick anymore. I believed it when I was young and stupid but I’ve seen it in action now at a variety of jobs and I just don’t buy it. People outside of unions don’t get fired for incompetence either. Unions just make a convenient scapegoat for people who hate their jobs but don’t want to do anything to make their own workplace better.

    • Tyro says:

      In most unionized places, once the union is in, workers there don’t get a choice, either pay union dues, or find work elsewhere.

      Elsewhere being places that have no union, but pay much less with no benefits, where your treatment and job exists at the whim of the personality-disorder-suffering owner. I think people are happy with that deal.

    • Matt says:

      If I didn’t have to share a country with your deluded ass, I’d recommend that you get to experience a system like you describe. I don’t think you’d have much time to report on the results, though, what with the 7-day-a-week 18-hour days you’d be working (since both weekends and 8-hour days were won with the BLOOD of trade unionists, you certainly wouldn’t want those protections anymore, right?).

    • Ahuitzotl says:

      In many cases the union itself employs the workers, and then the company employs the union as a whole.

      What? I’ve never seen, never even heard of this happening, despite having worked in several highly unionised countries. Are you sniffing glue or something? I cant even imagine how someone could believe this

      • Lurker says:

        I think that in Finland, this arrangement is, in theory, possible. In such arrangement, a group of persons make a collective employment contract with the employer. (työkunta) In such arrangement, the persons are jointly and severally responsible for conducting the work. However, no union makes that kind of contracts. It is an mostly an antiquated legal vehicle whereby a master craftsman and a group of apprentices might contract some very short-term employment without having a corporate structure or bookkeeping.

        The best use I know for that is as a trick question for high school teachers to use on a civics exam.

    • Anonymous says:

      You see that is not the way unionism works here at VW headquarters. And that is not the model the VW Union wants to export to Tennessee

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      The derp is strong with this one.

      What does that pile of Southern wage-slave shite have to do with the workers’ council model that the UAW has agreed with VW should the workers vote for union representation?

    • Joe B. says:

      It’s Tennessee, a Right to Work state, so you can free ride on the higher wages and benefits that a union will bring all you like.

  18. […] religious freedom. •Tennessee Republican politicians would sooner drive VW out of the state than let unions in. Although the workers’ rejection of the union may be due to other causes too. […]

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