Oooh. Grab the popcorn, y’all. Tennessee’s Republican Daddy is having a big fight with Corporate Mama over this week’s UAW vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. And how scared are the Republicans? VERY:
On Monday, state Republican leaders accused Volkswagen of supporting the UAW and they threatened to withhold any tax incentives for future expansion of the three-year-old assembly plant in Chattanooga if workers vote to join the UAW.
“Should the workers at Volkswagen choose to be represented by the United Auto Workers, then I believe any additional incentives from the citizens of the State of Tennessee for expansion or otherwise will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate,” State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, said in a statement sent to the Free Press.
A worker opposition group called Southern Momentum echoed that position in a statement.
“Further financial incentives — which are absolutely necessary for the expansion of the VW facility here in Chattanooga — simply will not exist if the UAW wins this election,” Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga labor lawyer representing Southern Momentum said.
Today’s threat comes less than 48 hours after Volkswagen said it favors a German-style works council with union representation.
“Outside political groups won’t divert us from the work at hand: innovating, creating jobs, growing, and producing great automobiles,” said Sebastian Patta, Volkswagen Chattanooga vice president of human resources.
The anti-union forces now are countering that VW isn’t neutral, it is pro-union.
Speaking of “outside political groups,” has anyone looked into who is paying Southern Momentum’s bills? All of those lawyers’ fees and anti-union billboards? I wouldn’t be shocked to find Americans For Prosperity or some similar conservative group financing this operation.
I find this absolutely hilarious. The company everyone embraced with hugs and kisses back in 2008 is now no longer welcome. Screw those thousands of jobs, amiright? We don’t want your kind around here.
Sen. Bob Corker wrote in 2008:
It’s difficult to find a sector of our state that will NOT be affected positively. Not only will the Chattanooga region be transformed by the tremendous economic impact and new job creation that will result from Volkswagen’s investment, our entire state will reap great benefits from suppliers and other supporting businesses this facility will attract.
Apparently allowing the workers to decide whether to have a collective voice in their workplace will somehow change all of that. Of course it’s not just Tennessee Republicans who are terrified of the implications of Volkswagen joining the UAW. It’s the entire Southern wing of the party (which, let’s face it, is basically the entire party). Would Nissan be far behind? Toyota up in Kentucky? The Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama? Kiss cheap labor — and a treasured talking point — goodbye.
So now Tennessee Republicans are threatening to end the incentives they claim lured VW to the state in the first place. But did they? From the memory hole:
Mr. Jacoby said the decision went well beyond the question of the state’s financial incentives and of state and local investments in infrastructure in an excellent competitive site. It hinged equally, he emphasized, on the city’s deep and durable commitment to the vision of renaissance and quality of life that resurrected Chattanooga from pollution and decline; to the community’s dedication to a sustainable future; to our efforts at nurturing our natural environment and enriching our cultural amenities; and to the sense of commitment and determination for a better future that Volkswagen’s leaders culled from their conversations with people who live and work here and who spoke optimistically of their values, culture, schools, housing, hospitals and quality of life.
VW found shared values
In all these ways, he said, Volkswagen found shared values and common goals — “something in our heart … in our gut,” in the city’s history, culture, environment and natural beauty — that reinforced the company’s decision to come to Chattanooga to build a car for the future, a car designed specifically for the American driver.
Of course, that’s likely just ribbon-cutting nice time talk we’re used to hearing at these press events. Regardless, I guess the honeymoon is over. We love having jobs, as long as they’re, y’know, the right kind of jobs. Cheap labor jobs. The kind that know their place and don’t cause trouble in the neighborhood. The ones that don’t hang around with the wrong sort of elements and start rabble-rousing up in Smyrna or down in Vance, Alabama.
Tennessee Republicans are right to be scared. As I reported in a recent Good News post, Tennessee ranks number one in the nation for the largest percentage increase in union membership. That no doubt reflects how far we had to go compared to other states, but it also reflects the fact that Tennessee’s workers realize the low wage, low benefit jobs where workers have no voice in how their plants are run might not be jobs worth having.
Crushing organized labor to maintain low wages and oppressive work conditions has been a long-cherished Republican value. If VW falls, would Nissan be far behind? Or any other manufacturing plant? Stay tuned.
(Some history on the issue here.)