Chattanooga Update: Employee Support, Political Opposition

Benjamin Sachs

Benjamin Sachs is the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry at Harvard Law School and a leading expert in the field of labor law and labor relations. He is also faculty director of the Center for Labor and a Just Economy. Professor Sachs teaches courses in labor law, employment law, and law and social change, and his writing focuses on union organizing and unions in American politics. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 2008, Professor Sachs was the Joseph Goldstein Fellow at Yale Law School.  From 2002-2006, he served as Assistant General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, D.C.  Professor Sachs graduated from Yale Law School in 1998, and served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. His writing has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the New York Times and elsewhere.  Professor Sachs received the Yale Law School teaching award in 2007 and in 2013 received the Sacks-Freund Award for Teaching Excellence at Harvard Law School.  He can be reached at [email protected].

According to the UAW, a majority of employees at VW’s plant in Chattanooga, TN has signed cards signaling their support for the union and for VW’s “Global Works Council.”  It appears unsettled whether VW will recognize the union based on the cards – as it would be entitled to do – or whether an election will be held.

Meanwhile, a Democratic legislator in Tennessee is asserting that Bill Haslam, the state’s Republican governor, “promised Volkswagen AG additional incentives if the company kept the United Auto Workers union out of its two-year-old Chattanooga plant.”  This follows Tennessee’s Republican Senator, Bob Corker, saying that it is “almost beyond belief” that VW would pursue an agreement with the UAW and that VW could become a “laughingstock . . . if they inflict this wound.”

One wonders why the Republican establishment in Tennessee is so concerned about the possibility of a union at Volkswagen, especially when both the employees and the company seem to want one.  Here’s what Vikas Bajaj wrote in the New York Times today: “The lawmakers say they are worried that a unionized Volkswagen plant would somehow ruin the investment climate in the state and compel other companies not to invest there. A more realistic explanation for why the lawmakers oppose the U.A.W.’s foray into their state is that they fear it will support the state’s Democratic party.”

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