• Dec 1, 2010
Unions and southern auto plants go together like ice cream socials and diabetes, but the mere thought of an organized Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga must give Tennessee Senator Bob Corker bad dreams. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Corker was asked by VW to give input as to whether or not the facility should take a pro-United Auto Workers stance. The senator reportedly told representatives at the German autoworker that the presence of organized labor would be "highly detrimental."

So why the negative stance on unions? Corker claims that his dealings with the UAW during the bailout of Chrysler and General Motors is the reason he's so sour on the idea in his home state. The senator claims that the UAW put the success of the automakers "way, way, way way" behind the needs of union, adding "I just can't imagine any company of their own accord of being desirous of entering into a relationship with UAW."

Volkswagen currently has a reported "neutral position" concerning unionization in Chattanooga, but according to a study by the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan and other Booth newspapers, the UAW could lead to higher labor costs for the German automaker. The paper says that overall labor costs, which include pension funding and health care, adds up to about $74,000 per year per employee. Non-union automakers reportedly average a much lower $53,000 per year.

But while Corker's feelings about the UAW may or may not give VW pause, neither the senator or the automaker will have the final say in the matter. VW Communication Manager Guenther Scherelis says "the employees will decide for themselves about their representation."

[Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press | Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 87 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Good. I agree.

      I've said it a million times before, the UAW needs to go away. Bob King is absolutely useless.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Really? In this economy, if they did come in Non-union, CAN ANYONE TELL ME HOW $53,000/YR IS BAD?????!?! Good lord, yeah lets pay $74000/year to someone who is guaranteed to take a minimum of 5 breaks a day!!! I see no use for unions anymore, they were helpful back in the early days of industry, now they HINDER DEVELOPMENT OF INDIVIDUALS AND COMPANIES!!! They call it free trade/free business for a reason.

      Screw unions.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i think this guy is not for the little people, hes for big business, as much as they want VW jobs there has to be a happy medium. How can you not support the people that elected you into your position, and they say in the same breath that unions are anti business ?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh, don't try and argue with the "capitalists" on here, protecting the wealth of the few at the expense of the many. With the attitudes on here, our country is truly up the creek without a paddle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Because they are. Artificially higher operating costs make opening plants like that much less desirable solutions from a business standpoint. The senator is encouraging the creation of new jobs while preventing those jobs from gutting a company, leading to no jobs. I can't see anything wrong with that.

        Besides, VW exists to make cars, not jobs. I think that's a line a lot of people unknowingly crossed in the GM debates. Car companies don't owe the individual citizen anything until they walk in to buy a car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I guess if VW doesn't like what Tennessee is offering, VW can expand more in Mexico. I'm sure they would love more good paying jobs.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Trying to get in before the pro/anti union verbal vomit for a clarification request.

      Are unions mandated in some states (MI), and not others (TN) ? Sounds optional in Tennessee.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks, that's what I was trying to remember...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Joining a union isn't mandated by the state. It depends on the employment contract. Right-to-Work states make requiring to join a union to work some place illegal.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Today's unions are a joke. What was a noble concept has been hijacked and diseased by unabated greed. How can you 'protect' workers when your very actions threaten to kill the business that actually pays them?

      If unions would return to the basics - fair wage, relatively safe work environment, job security - then they would be an entity with which to deal.

      Since their leaders have no interest in actually doing that, I would take an anti-union stance, and support any lawmakers who do also (on this matter).
        • 4 Years Ago
        diseased by unabated greed.

        Oh, but I guess it's ok for wall street sucking up middle class dollars. Bravo! The free market works only for the haves.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Luis, what do you do for a living? How old are you? You've obviously never run even a hot dog stand.

        The average poor person in the United States has a car, a cell phone, a television set, a microwave oven and is likely to be a homeowner. By global standards, that's hardly poverty. In fact, one of the biggest problems facing those living below the US poverty level is obesity. The "poor" in America are hardly starving.

        In any case, what's wrong with income inequality? Does the fact that you might make more money than me have any moral urgency to change that situation?

        The economy is not a zero sum game, some kind of pizza that can only have so many slices. Your wealth is not the cause of my poverty.

        That brings up a question, Luis. Just how is wealth created?

        Is commerce and trade always exploitative? Can two parties to a sale both benefit from that transaction?

        If income inequality bothers you so much, how about telling me what your income is. We'll compare and if you make more money than me, I'll expect you to stand by your convictions and give me half of the difference. If I make more, tough luck, you're the one that wants income equality, not me.

        You clearly have access to a computer and the internet. What are you wasting money on those things? Why not give the money to a poor person instead?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Luis

        And just how did the "haves" get there? The wealth had to start with someone!!

        You think the unions are so great? Take a trip to Detroit and look at all the wonderful things they have done for that city!! By your posts, you have either never been there, or you live around there and work for the union and have your head in the sand. Which is it?

        Face it, the unions served their purpose, and are now just becoming a detriment, as others here have noted.
      • 4 Years Ago

      Shelby, Corker, and the majority of posters here are traitors. If it
      was up to them there would be no American automakers period. These
      two idiots opposed bailouts that saved over 1mil American jobs! While
      at the same time offering foreign companies tax incentives to set up
      non-union shops in their states. Companies whose workforces are
      strongly unionized in their home countries. There is no coincidence
      between the decline of the middle class and sharp reduction of union
      labor in this country. Do you really believe it's the unions fault
      a company decides to use labor in countries like China where they can
      pay literally pennies on the dollar?! And Shelby and Corker are the
      biggest hypocrites of all with their generous federal benefits. Labor
      needs protection in this country because they have the most to lose.
      A company goes out of business and who bears the brunt of the loss?
      Not the exec who already made millions or shareholders who are
      protected (from wider losses). No it's the guy on the line who can no longer put food on
      the table!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, it is amazing how the middle class has continued to shrink while the standard of living is continuing to rise.

        You credit the unions for creating wealth and prosperity while the most unionized areas of the country are going bankrupt, have high unemployment, and comprise a part of the country known as "The Rustbelt". Meanwhile, states like Texas with more conservative policies are prospering and attracting businesses from unionized states and abroad.

        As for the Bailout? I have a hard time opposing it, even though I do not feel the government should be getting involved in the private sector. Like everyone else, I want to see the US auto industry thrive, but the UAW is the reason the bailout was needed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      To all the people who keep bashing unions remember to tell your opinions to the fireman and police officers who come to your rescue when you are in trouble
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ah, a comment from one of our betters in a public employee union. For the matter, cops almost never save anyone, they show up after the danger is over. In fact, cops generally will not risk their own safety to help you. They'll let shooting victims bleed out rather than try to confront the shooter. They also are the public employees most likely to use scare tactics when budgets need to be cut. They are perhaps the worst pension abusers, frequently ginning up sketchy "disabilities" so they can bump up their pensions.

        As for firemen, when the city of Flint, MI had to lay off a couple dozen firefighters, the city was struck by a rash of suspicious arson fires. Those of us not in a public employee union can make the logical conclusion as to who was setting those fires.

        Police and fire labor unions should be illegal. Political contributions by public employee unions should be seen as the corruptive bribery that they are.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, those people belong to the public sector unions that we have absolutely no choice but to engage with. The coming confrontation with public sector unions is going to be ugly, as their benefits are far too good to be long term affordable for public finances.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Unions should only be formed if the labor force of a work area is being mistreated, misused, and put in harms way constantly. Then after such concerns are addressed and correct should be disbanned. But that is just my thoughts and feelings on them.

      VW should attempt to take steps to ensure that the UAW doesnt get its paws into their plant.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great to see all the comments here. Sounds like we may turn this country around after all.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Luis

        You mean like the bailouts of GM and Chrysler who have been losing market share to foreign competition for the last 30 + years because of all of the cost cutting measures and lack of incentive that hurt their quality and stunted innovation to incur the legacy costs and high salaries for present and former UAW workers?

        Let's hope not!! My gut tells me that if something like this happens again with the auto industry, someone is not going to have a safety net to catch them the next time they fall.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You mean more bailouts and economic collapse? Greater income inequality? Lower pay, fewer benefits. More poverty. Yeah, let's keep turning the titanic around, she won't sink!
      • 4 Years Ago
      VW leadership - picture yourself buried in pensions and healthcare costs in 20 years, unable to trim your workforce to suit market demand, and unable to get out of a contract you signed with the UAW. Is that where you want to be? Unfortunately 2/3 of American auto manufacturers had to declare bankruptcy before the UAW caught on to the fact that they were in trouble.

      Quite aside from the fact that the UAW's loony new president won't even allow foreign cars on UAW property, I don't know why any 21st century manufacturing enterprise would possibly want to use unionized labor. Ford, GM, and Chrysler apparently have a contract with them until the end of the universe and I doubt anything short of the crumbling of civilization will void it but VW has a choice to avoid the whole mess.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Politicians need to be more intelligent when speaking about unions. By saying that the UAW is anti-business, politicians appear to be carrying water for big corporations. Some of them are. The truth of the matter is that unions are bad for employees b/c inflated wages and massive unfunded pension/healthcare liabilities ultimately put laborers out of work.

      Unions (in their current form with their current power base and current wage negotiating tactics) are bad for workers. Unions fight for absurdly high wages and benefits which enriches a small number of union workers while making millions of union workers unemployed by destroying the American manufacturing jobs.

      Companies that like cheap labor tend to outsource, no doubt, but high worker productivity, legislative stability, and reduced employment burden (legal, tax, and benefits) make it possible for them to maintain a domestic workforce. The UAW reduce worker productivity, increase legislative instability, and increase the employment burden. UAW membership is plummeting, and American manufacturing jobs are disappearing. What further proof is required to demonstrate that the UAW cannot protect American jobs or American workers.

      Corporate America is not exactly noble, but we can't demand that they maintain a domestic workforce until unions and Congress get their act together. If major auto manufacturers have to leave their home factories, they probably aren't going to move to a neighboring state. If they have to build entirely new facilities, they will go overseas so they can get bigger returns and incur less financial risk.

      That's why unions are a danger to all of us, not just the workers who pay dues. They need to be regulated under monopoly and anti-trust statutes. If they control all of the manufacturing labor in a sector, they need to be broken up so they have to compete with one another.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If you push this button for 20 years you too can earn $80,000+/year! I'm sorry, I don't see the logic of paying wages for someone who will take these earnings and spend them on alcohol/drugs whilst on the line and further burden the average tax payer (by draining social and health services with their issues). You shouldn't be a lifer on the line, take your earnings, invest in an education, and do something for society.
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