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Auto Workers Union Wins Historic Victory at VW in Tennessee

By Dan La Botz - International Viewpoint, April 21, 2024

The United Auto Workers union won a tremendous victory for labor last week that has the potential to begin to restore the power of unions in America.

Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted overwhelmingly on April 20 to join the United Auto Workers Union, a historic victory, winning the first union election in that industry in the South since the 1940s. Some 2,628 cast votes in favor and 985 against, that is 73% voted for the union. All together 4,326 were eligible to vote and about 84% did.

Union president Shawn Fain told workers celebrating the victory, “You all have just done the most important thing a working-class person can do, and that is stand up.”

Until now, the South has been a bastion of bosses, of non-union open shops, where workers had no vote and no voice in their workplaces. If this victory leads to others, as it is expected to, it will change completely the balance of forces between the corporations and the working class in America. The South, based on slavery until the late 1860s, and on Jim Crow segregation, disfranchisement, and lynching until the 1960s, has remained the U.S. region with fewest unions, lowest wages, the poorest educational level, the worst public health, and the most backward political attitudes in the country. This UAW win could begin to change all of that.

'You All Moved a Mountain': Tennessee Volkswagen Workers Vote to Join UAW

By Olivia Rosane - Common Dreams, April 20, 2024

Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, became the first Southern autoworkers not employed by one of the Big Three car manufacturers to win a union Friday night when they voted to join the United Auto Workers by a "landslide" majority.

This is the first major victory for the UAW after it launched the biggest organizing drive in modern U.S. history on the heels of its "stand up strike" that secured historic contracts with the Big Three in fall 2023.

"Many of the talking heads and the pundits have said to me repeatedly before we announced this campaign, 'You can't win in the South,'" UAW president Shawn Fain told the victorious workers in a video shared by UAW. "They said Southern workers aren't ready for it. They said non-union autoworkers didn't have it in them. But you all said, 'Watch this!' And you all moved a mountain."

According to the UAW's real-time results, the vote tally now stands at 2,628—or 73%—yes to 985—or 27%—no. Voting at the around 4,300-worker plant began Wednesday.

Historic union victory at Volkswagen factory an “inspiration for democracy at work”

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, April 20, 2024

It is the first successful vote for unionisation at an auto factory in the southern USA since the 1940s. Nearly 75 per cent of workers voted for union representation.

The UAW has been expanding its efforts to organise auto factories in the south, which has been traditionally resistant to unionisation. As part of the plan to organise around 150,000 workers in car plants that have no union representation, elections are planned next month at the Mercedes-Benz manufacturing facilities in Vance and Woodstock, Alabama.

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “This victory at Volkswagen is not just a win for the workers there; it is an inspiration to create more democratic workplaces across the USA, the Americas and the whole world. As our campaign For Democracy makes clear, the workplace is the forge for democracy, from where it spreads to enrich society, and then builds the legitimacy to demand greater accountability at global institutions.

“This vote will empower the workers in Chattanooga to demand the fair conditions and respect they deserve through collective bargaining. I congratulate them on this history victory and the global trade union movement stands with them.

“Working people across the world and the USA can take courage and inspiration from this vote. It is possible to overcome long-standing barriers and benefit from the clear advantages of democratic, unionised workplaces. We stand with working people as they use the momentum from this historic win to gain democratic rights and representation at work.”

Historic UAW Win Opens the Floodgates For Organizing in the South

By Michaela Winter - Jobs With Justice, April 20, 2024

On Friday, August 19, Tennessee workers won their union in a resounding watershed victory. After two heartbreaking union elections at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant in 2014 and 2019, the votes have been tallied for a third, worker-led campaign to unionize the Volkswagen plant with the United Auto Workers. Workers overwhelmingly voted YES to join UAW. Despite facing interference from anti-worker politicians, workers in Chattanooga have made history.

Leading the South

The momentum of this win is groundbreaking for workers in Tennessee and represents the thrilling possibilities of workplace democracy not yet experienced in the majority of the southern United States. There is no doubt that this victory has arrived during a critical moment.

19 billion dollars of federal funding is being injected into Tennessee to support manufacturing and renewable energy infrastructure, and corporations have made it clear they plan to utilize similar funding in neighboring southern states. While the clean energy boom is set to create thousands of jobs, the risk of exploitation – in a region already disenfranchised by low-paying wages and poor safety standards – is a looming and urgent reality. Unless workers unite to demand their fair share of the clean energy future they will build. 

Workers will turn this energy towards union-hostile Alabama at a Mercedes plant in May before their election to join the UAW.

This Is The Biggest Win For Workers In Decades

Tennessee Volkswagen Workers Vote Union

By Luis Feliz Leon - Labor Notes, April 19, 2024

In a watershed victory, workers at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted tonight "UAW, yes!" The company's sole non-union plant will finally join the rest of the world.

“If Volkswagen workers at plants in Germany and Mexico have unions, why not us?” said equipment operator Briam Calderon in Spanish, ahead of the vote.

"Just like Martin Luther King had a dream, we have a dream at Volkswagen that we will be UAW one day," said Renee Berry, a logistic worker on the organizing committee who's worked at the plant for 14 years.

The UAW is riding a wave of momentum after winning landmark contracts at the Big 3 automakers last year. Production workers at Volkswagen earn $23 per hour and top out above $32, compared to $43 for production workers at Ford’s Spring Hill assembly plant by the contract’s end in 2028.

“We could see what other auto workers were making compared to what we were making,” said Yolanda Peoples, a member of the organizing committee on the engine assembly line.

To head off a union drive, Volkswagen boosted wages 11 percent to match the immediate raise UAW members received at Ford. Peoples saw her pay jump from $29 to $32 an hour.

“When they went on strike, we paid close attention just to see what happened. Once they won their contract, it changed a lot of people from anti-union to pro-union members,” said Peoples.

Today’s vote was a key test of whether the union could springboard the strike gains to propel new organizing in longtime anti-union bastions in the South, the anchors of big investments in the electric-vehicle transition.

The vote was 2,628 in favor of forming a union to 985 against. There were seven challenged ballots, and three voided; 4,326 workers were eligible to vote.

Previous efforts at this plant in 2014 and 2019 had gone down to narrow defeats. Ahead of the vote, workers said their co-workers had learned from those losses.

They brushed off threats that a union would make the plant less competitive and lead it to close. After all, VW invested $800 million here in 2019 to produce the I.D. Electric SUV.

“We have seen the enemy’s playbook twice, and they don’t have any new moves,” said Zach Costello, a member of the organizing committee and a trainer on the assembly line. “It’s the greatest hits now.”

The organizing committee beat the predictable anti-union talking points with conversations across the plant.

“At the end of the day, we’ve been focusing all our time and attention on the people who matter,” said organizing committee member Isaac Meadows, “and it’s our co-workers who cast votes.

“Now Mercedes workers [in Alabama] are right behind us. We’ve set the stage for them to win and they will create the momentum for Hyundai and Toyota.”

Mercedes workers will vote from May 13-16, with a ballot count on the 17.

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