Tuesday, February 18, 2014

UAW loses vote at Chattanooga VW Plant

Union Suffers Big Loss at Tennessee VW Plant
Volkswagen workers rejected the UAW by a vote of 712 to 626.

The United Auto Workers union suffered a crushing defeat Friday (February 14), falling short in an election in which it seemed to have a clear path to organizing workers at Volkswagen AG's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The setback is a bitter defeat because the union had the cooperation of Volkswagen management and the aid of Germany's powerful IG Metall union, yet it failed to win a majority among the plants' 1,550 hourly workers.


VW America was opposing unionization at the Chattanooga plant but was overruled by the corporate office, which wants to see a German-style "works council" in the plant.  In other words, VW corporate wants a way to work, cooperatively, with their employees, feeling that they share the same goal: a happier more-productive workforce building a better quality product.

Who can argue?  German auto workers are much better-compensated, yet more productive – far more productive – than in the US.  Germany remains the most competitive manufacturer of cars in the world (on a per worker basis).  Yet, the average worker pay in German auto plants is $67 per hour. In the US, auto worker pay is half that at just over $33 per hour total compensation.

At Chattanooga's VW plant, pay tops out at about $22 per hour.
There are plenty of reasons why Tennessee ranks 47th in the US in terms of income ... unions and high wages aren't among those reasons.


In 2010, over 5.5 million cars were produced in Germany, twice the 2.7 million built in the United States. Average compensation (a figure including wages and employer-paid benefits) for autoworkers in Germany was 48.97 Euros per hour ($67.14 US), while compensation for auto work in the United States averaged $33.77 per hour, or about half as much as in Germany, all according to 2007 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For Germany-based auto producers, the U.S. is a low-wage country.

At that Chattanooga plant, according to a company spokesperson, new employees earn $14.50 an hour, with wages gradually rising to $19.50 after 3 years on the job.