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UAW Files NLRB Complaint against Tennessee Republicans for Interference in Chattanooga

[ 101 ] February 21, 2014 |

The UAW has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the interference of Tennessee politicians in the union election, claiming intimidation and asking that the results be thrown out and a new election held (PDF). This was an expected step and I’m glad the UAW made it. Because workers did say these threats turned their vote, they do have a legal leg to stand upon. Whether the NLRB will actually toss the results, I don’t know. My gut feeling says it’s a bit of a long-shot. Even if it is overturned, will the workers vote differently the second time around?

But the evidence of Republican interference is all in that complaint and it’s pretty damning. Using the specter of capital mobility through the state not supporting company incentives as a threat against workers is a real dirty tactic and one that worked. One thing about this case is that everyone will be watching to see what the NLRB does.

Comments (101)

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  1. Dana Houle says:

    Even if it is overturned, will the workers vote differently the second time around?

    Like most dirty tricks, Corker’s move worked mostly because it was so late and there was insufficient time to counteract it. This time the workers would be less likely to fall for it.

    That said, this makes me think about what someone told me about one of the southern states in the 2008 election. The Obama team figured out that because of the massive black turnout they could generate, they only needed a little over 20% of the white vote. But nothing they polled, nothing, moved the numbers enough to get there. It may be the same here, or close, that there’s absolutely no way they could get to, say, 55%, so the margin of error would be exceedingly small.

  2. Marek says:

    Interesting case. I would think that a politician’s threats would be privileged in a way an employer’s wouldn’t, but the UAW had to file this charge.

    • cpinva says:

      why would a pol’s lies/threats be “privileged”, any more than an employer’s wouldn’t be? corker flat out lied, publicly, in an effort to sway the vote, his lies shouldn’t be rewarded.

      • UserGoogol says:

        Well, in principle politicians ought to have a broad authority to discuss issues of policy. Parliamentary immunity is a thing, although I don’t think it would apply in this situation.

      • Rhino says:

        Why would a senator’s lies be privileged? Because they make the rules?

        • efgoldman says:

          I believe anything a congresscritteer says on the floor (or by extension, a committee in session) is privileged against libel or slander action. But I’m not sure that’s true, and it is many decades since I heard/read it.

          • Rhino says:

            My comment was more a cynical comment on the realities of politics and government and their relationship to the law. Further examples would be insider trading by senators, campaign finance etc.

    • rea says:

      I would think that a politician’s threats would be privileged in a way an employer’s wouldn’t

      That shouldn’t be the case, because the State of Tennessee doesn’t get to overrule a federal statute like the NLRA. Nor does a single Senator.

    • Hogan says:

      Making a credible threat that if you join a union you’ll lose your job shouldn’t be allowed, no matter who’s making it.

  3. Brandon says:

    Wouldn’t the statements from Corker about VW promising to expand the plant if the union was voted down indicate illegal action on the part of VW?

    • advocatethis says:

      Maybe so, if there were any reason to believe that VW made any such promise, but it runs contrary to everything VW publicly said and did leading up to the election. That sounds more like a lie that Corker would come up with or pass on to advance his particular agenda.

      • Brandon says:

        Oh I have no doubt that it was dumb bullshit and, like you said, 100% counter to everything else VW was saying. But what I don’t know is if VW could have made a threat/promise like that legally anyway.

  4. Calming Influence says:

    This piece is interesting: GERMANY: VW labour leader hints at US plant investment block

    Volkswagen’s top labour representative has threatened to try to block further investments in the southern United States if the Chattanooga workers are not unionised, media reports said.

    “I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again,” Reuters quoted Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council, as telling German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
    “If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favour” of potentially building another plant in the US south, Osterloh, who is also on VW’s supervisory board, said.

    But this is really interesting:

    Local commentators have suggested the powerful German works council, with its seat on the supervisory board could also influence the decision on an additional model, sending it to Mexico instead of Tennessee.

    VW is expected to build a new SUV based on the CrossBlue concept specifically for North America at a plant in the NAFTA region to keep the price competitive with locally built rivals.

    So Bob Corker had it backwards and any new VW line or plant probably won’t go to Tennessee (or even the US!) in the future. Well played, GOP!

    • Dana Houle says:

      Well, I’d be more impressed if VW would be a plant in Michigan.

    • advocatethis says:

      I have no doubt that Corker would rather VW build a plant in Mexico than have a unionized plant in the US.

      • ProgressiveLiberal says:

        Conservatives look at it this way: low wages buy a lot of cheap shit.

        Liberals look at it this way: high wages buy a lot of expensive shit.

        I know conservatives are wrong (the marginal increase in shit you get when its cheap is dwarfed by the purchasing power of the marginal increase in wages) but it is simple to convince the not-too-smart of the conservative position.

        So I get why Corker believes that.

        • Linnaeus says:

          I think it goes deeper than that. It isn’t so much that Corker believes that “low wages buy lots of cheap shit” is a better economic principle. It’s about power. Organized labor is a threat to the kinds of power relations that Corker and those like him prefer. That’s why he and his allies pulled out all of the stops to oppose the UAW in this vote.

          • Dilan Esper says:

            Correct.

            I said in an earlier thread that the one anti-union argument that I thought was absolutely true is that unions help Democrats. And that some workers are going to be anti-union simply because they are Republicans and aren’t going to support institutions whom they believe assist the Democratic Party.

            And that’s exactly what Corker’s opposition is all about. And Grover Norquist’s. If unionization takes hold in the South, that would be huge for the Democratic Party down there. If it doesn’t, that helps the Republicans maintain their foothold. The workers have nothing to do with it. That’s why they are fighting so hard.

            • ProgressiveLiberal says:

              Uh, these guys don’t elect themselves.

              If the majority of southerners didn’t agree with Corker and Norquist and all of them, they’d vote against it. We still hold elections, yes?

              Now that would be a real threat. Not some union.

    • Linnaeus says:

      It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I’m still expecting the new production line to go to Tennessee – management can twist some arms here.

  5. ProgressiveLiberal says:

    At what point can we just accept that some people don’t want a union? You can lead a horse to water and all that…

    If the south literally votes to be a shit hole, what can we do about it? They voted on it, and that’s that.

    Face it, we could set aside every single election in the south if a lie by a conservative politician was all it took to do so.

    And then they’d go to the polls the next day and vote the same way. Let them have what they ask for.

    (Yes, I feel for those that are getting the shaft by being in the minority, but as a liberal, welcome to my world. I need to convince everyone to be liberal to live in the nice world I want. Ain’t happening anytime soon.)

    • Dana Houle says:

      There are laws. There should be recourse for when they’re broken.

      • ProgressiveLiberal says:

        Yes. You’re right.

        And then they can vote the same way. Which is my actual point.

        Just let it go already. There is no way they’re unionizing the south. At least until it gets bad enough. And I wouldn’t even bet on that!

        Face it, if they wanted to live in nicer places, they’d A) vote for it, or b) move to one.

        They don’t. Sometimes we should just let them be.

        • sharculese says:

          ace it, if they wanted to live in nicer places, they’d A) vote for it, or b) move to one.

          We’re playing this card, now?

          • ProgressiveLiberal says:

            Ok, we’re supposed to pretend neither of these are true:

            A) Tennessee voted for Romney and his “vision” 60:40

            B) Corker was reelected with even greater margins.

            Are you aware of how elections work? These aren’t self-appointed kings. This is a senator who they had 6 years to judge, and overwhelmingly reelected him and his vision.

            When can you finally concede that some people just see shit differently? Hell, I’m more liberal than the gross majority of self-identified liberals, but I respect the fact that I live in a democracy, and again, until I can convince y’all otherwise, I’m going to have to live in a way too conservative for my liking society. (In fact, you all are going to do a lot of shit I found downright disgusting and horrific!)

            We just disagree on things. The majority of southerners don’t want unions or the benefits they bring. So it is. Let them live with the consequences of their votes. Maybe one day It’ll be shitty enough and they’ll finally get it. Maybe not.

            But obviously shit isn’t bad enough now.

            The dumbest, and most common, argument I hear against unions is “but we have a 40 hour work week, no slaves, no kids, etc – unions are no longer necessary.” Anyone with a decent amount of knowledge and a little comprehension understands how stupid this argument is. But the majority of people here believe it. And until we are the benevolent dictators, we’re just going to have to live with this democracy thing.

            This isn’t “condescending” or any of that shit. It’s just reality. Being extremely liberal, I’m in the minority. So either I convince others, or accept reality for what it is. Or if I’m lucky enough to do so, move, and hope my new neighbors vote for some liberal shit too.

            • Petar Inženjer says:

              I’m going to have to live in a way too conservative for my liking society. (In fact, you all are going to do a lot of shit I found downright disgusting and horrific!

              Obviously, if you wanted to live in a better society you would have moved already.

              I’m lucky enough to do so, move,

              Now I understand why you are still here. You are special and it would take a set of fortunate circumstances before you could relocate.

            • DrDick says:

              The majority of southerners don’t want unions or the benefits they bring.

              I grew up in the South and have worked blue collar jobs in the past and this is simply false. The truth is that a majority of Southerners have been lied to, intimidated, and brainwashed into believing things about unions that are not true. They are not making a rational choice here and I have had these conversations with people in those situations.

              • delurking says:

                Yes, this.

                When I taught Working Class lit last semester, my students were nearly all ex-factory workers and similar. It took half a semester to get them to see that Unions aren’t evil; and after that, the stories they told me about what they had been told on the job, by their bosses and management, about Unions were just appalling.

            • JL says:

              Tennessee voted for Romney and his “vision” 60:40

              Sounds like 40% of the people there, which is hardly a marginal fringe, doesn’t support Romney’s “vision”. It’s not a majority, but it’s plenty of people to serve as a solid base to organize around.

              Are you aware of how elections work?

              Are you aware of how activism works? Your point appears to be that if people disagree with you, then 1) there’s no point in trying to persuade them, at least if it takes more than one election cycle to work, and 2) there’s no point in trying to use means other than straight-up electoral politics to accomplish your goals. Never mind that pretty much all social change involves doing at least one of those two things, and much of it involves doing both.

              Look at how attitudes on same-sex marriage have changed in the nearly ten years since Massachusetts got it through the court system. To take a Southern example, look at how Georgia Equality has gotten queer kids added to anti-bullying protections in more than a third of the state (population-wise) so far, including many the ruby-red northern suburbs of Atlanta. Their eventual goal is getting a statewide law, and they have a ways to go, but they’ve been making great progress through smart strategy. I’ve had the privilege of talking to some of their people about it.

              That progress didn’t happen by magic, it didn’t happen because one day those folks woke up and realized that they had been wrong all along, it happened because of activism in various forms. According to your logic, there was no point in bothering, all of those people should have either just accepted that they lived in unjust communities or moved somewhere better.

        • Municipal D1 says:

          If the South unionizes expect incidents like Matewan again. The South has made it clear that the will burn the whole thing down before they let factories unionize.

          Unfortunately, I think that’s where we’re headed.

        • Dana Houle says:

          Were you trying to be condescending, or did it just come naturally?

          • ProgressiveLiberal says:

            It’s just reality. Are you trying to be condescending, implying they are wrong for their desires?

            It isn’t a secret what people in the south vote for. It isn’t hidden from them. They know exactly what they want, and they vote for it.

            It’s time to stop pretending its just a bunch of “confused” southerners. Hell, I can’t even get the majority of liberals to be consistent or use logic…good luck with conservatives.

            • delurking says:

              See, you’re wrong. It is “hidden” from them, in that the schools and management and the bosses down here in the South all work *actively* to indoctrinate anti-Union propaganda into our working class from the time they are in grade school.

              These are the children of coal miners, being taught that Unions are evil. And most of them believe it; many of whom are too over-worked and desperate (because no unions) to do anything like educate themselves on the topic.

              Your stance here makes me wonder if you have ever talking to anyone working class from the South. You don’t really seem to have a real concept of who we are or how life works.

            • Dana Houle says:

              There was no argument, so there couldn’t have been an implication. But there was an insinuation, which I’ll make explicit: you’re kind of a condescending jackass. You don’t know their “desires,” you know an action that a slim majority of them took. For you to think you know the “desires” of tens of millions of people is probably astonishingly presumptuous, but definitely moronic.

        • Dilan Esper says:

          I’m no labor historian (Erik is, of course), but part of my understanding of the union story is that it’s a struggle. There were time periods when it didn’t look like ANY form of unionization would be successful in the US. Corporations really did have the upper hand in the 19th Century. Workers were scared to organize due to the violent tactics that were being deployed.

          But eventually unions did take hold in many industries and became very successful.

          I think it’s totally fair to say there are huge barriers to unionization in the South right now. That many pushes down there are going to fail. But that doesn’t mean that it will always fail, or that it isn’t worth trying, or that barriers can’t be knocked down.

          • Theobald Smith says:

            But Erik keeps bringing up the point that a friendly government was key in the success of labor unions.

            That’s not present in the South…

            • Erik Loomis says:

              State government doesn’t have to be friendly if the federal government is friendly. Feds are a lot more important than states on this.

              • Rhino says:

                I think the most important thing is not a friendly government, but rather a frightened one. Aristocracies react to existential threats, the rise of the labour movement occurred in an environment of revolution, rebellion, class uprising and hugely increased downward mobility for the upper classes. They reacted to these conditions with appeasement: labour laws, eventual tolerance for labour organization, social programs etc.

                When the southern lower classes get angry enough to start rebelling against authoritarian institutions, they will unionize.

                Incidentally, I think it’s a mistake to assume that extant unions will ever regain their power. They are easily controlled by the courts, and aince the courts are largely the creatures of the right nowadays, that means they are hamstrung from the start. True organization will, in my opinion, rise from new grassroots groups, probably in areas not normally unionized, and spread from there, knocking the current unions down in the process.

                Personally I suspect that to be truly successful, the new system will depend upon worker controlled capital, probably seized, and reorganized into cooperatives.

                Gonna be interesting times.

    • sharculese says:

      Well, when convincing doesn’t do the trick there’s always hectoring and preening!

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Why I bet some of those southerners eat meat too!

      • Malaclypse says:

        I hear tell they have cell phones, some of ‘em.

        • Dana Houle says:

          And ‘lectricity for a light in their outhouse!

          • Just a Rube says:

            Can we lay off the “Southerners are a bunch of hopeless hicks” jokes?

            There’s enough to criticize about Sen. Corker and his ilk, the decision by the VW workers or even the trollish comment itself without smearing all Southerners with a broad brush.

            I mean, my state legislature is full of the evilest and most incompetent crooks Art Pope could buy, but that doesn’t mean the whole state deserves to be portrayed as evil and incompetent.

            • Linnaeus says:

              I suspect the comments above are actually mocking the hick jokes.

            • ProgressiveLiberal says:

              I think its insulting to infer that southerners are some kind of dumb hicks that don’t know what they’re voting for.

              You may DISAGREE with what they’re voting for – I sure as hell do – but who are we to tell them that their OPINIONS are wrong? Do you think they are unaware of all of the liberal arguments against their hypocrisy?

              Let’s take a little example: climate change.

              One view is we should do something about it, because it is going to imperil a whole ton of people in the future.

              The other view is that I’m living now, so who gives a shit about some hypothetical person that might exist at some point in the future, long after I’m dead. (Or some other useless rationalization that is essentially the same.)

              And that’s fine! So now let’s vote! And if I’m outvoted, I have to live with that. Because I share this world with everyone else that exists here and now! I can spend the rest of my life trying to convince others their wrong, but if I can’t, it is what it is.

              I think they should vote for higher wages, better working conditions, etc, etc, etc, along with making the future world inhabitable for their children. They just don’t agree.

              • delurking says:

                Yes, we can say that certain opinions are wrong. Are you serious?

                Several of my students have the opinion that vaccines are a scam by the CDC and the medical profession to make money off of desperate parents. Am I not allowed to note that these opinions are ignorant and ridiculous?

                People are entitled to informed opinions. And it has been the work of the ruling class in the South to keep the people as ignorant and misinformed as possible.

                Not a bug. A feature.

                • ProgressiveLiberal says:

                  If someone says “I’d prefer to live in a society that doesn’t force immunizations” that’s their opinion – their pathetic rationalization for that belief aside. (You see, they’ve made up their mind, then comes the rationalization. Welcome to reality.)

                  And it’s a valid opinion to have. We can vote on it, and accept the results of democracy, but they’re not “wrong” for wanting to live in a lottery game society where random people needlessly die prematurely, just because you and I don’t.

                  Go convince them otherwise, I’m all for it! But stop with the “they’re wrong” crap when it comes to their opinions.

                  They don’t want unions. I’ve talked to coal miners from PA and WV who have the same opinions. Get this: I even talked to one that would never work for a union, but was glad all his competitors were unionized, because it raised his wages in an effort to prevent his place from being unionized.

                  He told me this during one week that he had been fired – they do this every time the machine breaks, to save on labor. After 2 weeks they get unemployment. This time they got the machine fixed in less than 2 weeks and rehired them all, so he got nothing.

                  Seems stupid to me…but that’s what he wants.

                  PS. I love how all liberals think that people go through these whole elaborate processes of evaluating arguments and coming to logical, rational conclusions. Bullshit. The gross majority decide how they “feel” about something, then get to rationalizing. Conservatives and liberals alike. Union and non-union. Virtually everyone.

                • Hogan says:

                  And it’s a valid opinion to have. We can vote on it, and accept the results of democracy, they’re not “wrong” for wanting to live in a lottery game society where random people needlessly die prematurely, just because you and I don’t.

                  It’s my valid opinion that they’re wrong, so shut up.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  If someone says “I’d prefer to live in a society that doesn’t force immunizations” that’s their opinion – their pathetic rationalization for that belief aside.

                  Get this: I even talked to one that would never work for a union, but was glad all his competitors were unionized, because it raised his wages in an effort to prevent his place from being unionized.

                  So, making pathetic excuses for free riders is now the Progressive Liberal position?

                  I do not think those words mean what you think they mean.

              • Dana Houle says:

                It’s my opinion that you may want to look up “infer” and “imply” and learn the differences between the two.

                And yes, in case you’re wondering, I’m being condescending.

      • ProgressiveLiberal says:

        And until vegans can convince everyone otherwise, it will continue.

        Just like slavery did, for a long, long time. And a ton of other horrific shit that the “majority” liked.

        Democracy ain’t always right…but its what we got.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Meat eaters are totally like slaveholders.

          • ProgressiveLiberal says:

            Eating meat is horrific. You can rationalize it all you want, whatever it takes to get you through the day.

            I know you’re intelligent enough to understand what an analogy is.

            Quick, which is the worst, slavery or child rape or murder? Now ask everyone else and see if they agree.

            But there is no difference between you rationalizing eating animals and southerners rationalizing enslaving others, burglars rationalizing burglary (only objects are harmed! No people or animals!), etc, etc, etc. It’s all just a bunch of bullshit on your end.

            • Erik Loomis says:

              It’s really a wonder that people hate vegans.

            • DrDick says:

              No, I just do not have problem killing, butchering, and eating animals (any more than I do plants, which are also living creatures), like I do with humans. Humans are omnivores and are built to eat meat. It is true that you can now eat a balanced and nutritious vegan diet, that has not always been the case. I take it you also hate cats and dogs, which are carnivores.

              • ProgressiveLiberal says:

                And that’s your opinion. A lot of people have had a lot of horrific opinions throughout history. Still to this day. What’s your point?

                I like how the person who wouldn’t eat animals “hates cats and dogs” but the person who would eat animals (or are these on your – i’m sure well reasoned and consistent – “will not eat this animal” list?) ACTUALLY cares about them.

                Brilliant! Nothing like another consistent, logical liberal leading us all from the darkness…

                Again, we need better liberals.

                • DrDick says:

                  You are getting ever more incoherent here. What is my opinion? That humans are omnivores? That is scientific fact. That it has not always been possible to eat a healthy vegan diet? Also well documented. It is only with the advent of agriculture that this became a realistic option.

    • Hogan says:

      This isn’t ‘Nam, Smokey. This is bowling. There are rules.

  6. Roger says:

    VW and the UAW teamed up to try and manipulate workers to go union and Corker did the right thing in backing the non-union workers because the NLRB is a Democrat organization that hates non-union – I know this personally as a previous union member for over 45 years and tried to take a case to the NLRB as a non-union worker; the NLRB turned it down because I was not a member of any organization.

    This was a secret vote where the workers were free to vote their conscience and that was against the UAW procedure of all voters to reveal how they voted so the UAW could harass them personally. I have contacted my state representative to keep an eye on this case because I already know what NLRB is going to do unless they are stopped.

  7. Tom Stickler says:

    South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says no unionized companies need apply.

    http://wonkette.tumblr.com/post/77334868127/south-carolina-gov-nikki-haley-will-have-none-of

  8. K says:

    Alright, its not like republicans with ar15s were standing over the workers as they voted. The workers chose this. They had the option to bring in the union, who would’ve had their back if republicans made good on any threats. Unions are pretty good at making threats themselves.

  9. K says:

    the workers made a judgement call for themselves. In the one hand, they had the x dollars, whatever union dues are, and in the other, they had y benefits from being unionized. Obviously they needed the cash more. Can you blame them? The economy is still shaky at best.

    • DrDick says:

      the workers made a judgement call for themselves.

      With a little help from threats by styate officials and other prominent locals. English comprehension is obviously not your strong suite.

  10. Informant says:

    Meh. I was disappointed by the result of the vote, but I’m pretty sure this complaint is the functional equivalent of states passing complete abortion bans or extreme anti-gay rights measure that are all but guaranteed to be overturned by federal courts. (There’s no chance in hell that a court would ever find it was unlawful for a politician to speak about a matter of public significance in their state.) It will generate lots of publicity and fundraising dollars for the UAW though.

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