News & Commentary

February 17, 2014

According to the New York Times, Volkswagen officials in Germany have renewed their efforts to create a German-style works council at the company’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. On Friday, workers at the Chattanooga plant voted against unionization. The vote was a significant setback for proponents of the works council because most labor experts believe that, under the National Labor Relations Act, a company cannot establish a works council until its workers have unionized.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that, in the next few months, workers will be waiting to see if Republicans can fulfill the promises they made in their vigorous campaign against unionization at the Chattanooga plant. U.S. Senator Bob Corker “all but guaranteed” that, if the workers voted against the union, Volkswagen would build a new SUV at its Tennessee plant instead of sending the work to Mexico.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that, when labor leaders meet in Houston this week to craft a strategy for the coming year, they will discuss how to respond to the Chattanooga election. For more information about the Chattanooga plant and works councils, see the following explainer.

The Washington Post observes that most Americans with intellectual or developmental disabilities struggle to find jobs. According to one survey, 44 percent of intellectually disabled adults currently participate in the labor force, and only 34 percent are employed. The job market for adults with intellectual disabilities has not improved over the past decade, despite the fact that the government has spent billions of dollars to help these individuals find work.

The New York Times Editorial Board suggests that the workforce at colleges and universities has changed substantially in recent years, and not for the better. The Board explains that the number of adjunct and non-tenure-track professors has increased dramatically in the past four decades. At the same time, colleges and universities have been hiring more administrative employees. The Board suggests that colleges and universities could serve students better if they spent more money employing tenure-track professors and less money on other staff.

According to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 200 undocumented workers are believed to be in an abandoned mine in South Africa. Rescue efforts have stalled because many of the workers fear that they will be arrested when they surface. While 20 workers emerged today, dozens more remain underground.

The Wall Street Journal also reports that Australia’s National Union of Workers has accused Caterpillar, Inc. of pressuring temporary workers in Melbourne to sign releases saying that they do not want permanent jobs. The Union has taken its case to the Fair Work Commission, Australia’s national workplace-relations tribunal.


Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.