Saturday, February 15, 2014

Corker & crowd can uncork their champagne over the UAW loss in Chattanooga, but another battle looms ahead in Canton, Miss., where workers are less likely to buy their bogus claims

More than a dozen billboards around Chattanooga, Tenn, screamed the same message: Workers! Vote “NO!” to having a voice in your workday lives! The United Auto Workers is only a cover for the “United Obama Workers”, one of the billboards said.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into Chattanooga from far-off Washington, D.C., and the bottomless pockets of Grover Norquist and his right-wing Americans for Tax Reform to preach the gospel that jobs go only to docile, voiceless workers in the modern-day economy. It was the local branch of Norquist’s organization, called the Center for Worker Freedom (Goebbels would admire the cynicism in such a title) that financed the billboards.

Republican politicians in Tennessee were practically apoplectic that Volkswagen managers were not joining them in the campaign to prevent  the 1,500 workers at the company’s Chattanooga plant from signing up with the UAW. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who bitterly opposed federal assistance to the domestic auto industry at the height of the Great Recession, warned that Volkswagen’s leaders could become a “laughingstock” if they didn’t start behaving like corporate executives are supposed to behave. Like, say, Nissan’s anti-union chief Carlos Ghosn.

Back in 2001, just prior to an election at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., Ghosn warned employees that a pro-union vote was “not in your best interest." Workers heeded his threat and rejected the union.

Corker resorted to boldfaced lying. Volkswagen will only expand its plant if workers reject the UAW, Corker said. Even after Frank Fisher, CEO of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, said the claim was untrue, Corker still refused to step back from his concoction.

State Sen. Bo Watson emerged from the Chattanooga suburbs to make his own public claim that the Republican legislature in Tennessee will not grant incentives to a unionized plant to expand and add jobs. In other words, Tennessee’s political leaders would rather kill jobs than accept a union.

In its ongoing crusade to destroy unions everywhere, the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc., provided lawyers to several hand-picked Volkswagen workers to make a claim before the National Labor Relations Board of illegal pro-union coercion by the company.

 On Valentine’s Day Friday, workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant voted 712 to 626 against joining the UAW and thus rejected the establishment of a German-style works council that would have given them a voice on wages, benefits and workplace conditions.

On Monday, those workers will go back to the plant, line up along the assembly lines, and do their jobs quietly, knowing they have no voice and will have none even if they have something to say.

Back in Washington, Grover Norquist and Bob Corker can uncork a bottle of champagne and enjoy the restful silence coming out of Chattanooga.

Drink heartily, gentlemen, because you and your union-hating friends like the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council may need to fortify yourselves for another battle looming ahead.

That battle will take place at the giant Nissan plant in Canton, Miss., where the UAW has spent years laying a foundation much stronger than what it had in Chattanooga, a plant with a majority-black workforce less prone to pay a lot of attention to white politicians who only emerge from their suburban havens when they want to warn and threaten.

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