Volkswagen Chattanooga, manufacturer of the Passat recently voted down the UAW unionizing their plant. The UAW responded by blaming, “outside interference” for its defeat, with UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel saying, “Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that would grow jobs in Tennessee.”
I find it extremely interesting that they would reject the union and think it bears insight on the current mindset when it comes to unions in this day and age. Essentially, according to the article, VW workers stood to benefit by shutting down the union, because if they “spurned the union’s overture” they would receive another car to produce on their factory line, which would increase jobs available in Chattanooga and make their plant more whole. By rejecting the union, they rejected guaranteed health benefits, more breaks than the federally mandated ones, and probably more vacation days, but what they gained, in my opinion and theirs, is so much better.
We’ve seen the destructiveness of unions very recently in our time through the complete demise of the Detroit automotive industry. Unions overstepped their bounds and had non-skilled, high school educated employees making $40, $50, $60 an hour, and they felt entitled to it. Making pay this high for these types of workers rendered Detroit completely unprofitable in today’s global economy. I concede, that yes unions had a time and a place in American history, back in the twenties when meat packing plants, as illustrated by Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle were overworking and underpaying their workers, but recently the paradigm has flipped and the union’s have overstepped their bounds. Some say that unions are good for everyone, except the corporations that are profiteering business mongers that only care about profiteering at the expense of their workers. I say, that may have been true at one point, but nowadays businesses are, for the most part, very concerned with corporate social responsibility, and will help their workers as much as possible, without hurting their bottom line. Furthermore, Union’s operate as a whole, and sometimes, when they deem it necessary, will sell a group of their constituents down the river in negotiations for the good of the whole. Finally, I strongly believe that unionizing hurts the overall mentality of the workers, especially compared to a profit-sharing model. With a Union, workers begin to get the mentality that, “I’m union and I’m taking my break at 10:00 on the dot, because I’m entitled to it” instead of getting the job done in order to make the company, and in turn themselves, more fruitful. With a profit share model, workers are in it together, to have the optimal efficiency and therefore work harder, to maximize their pay.
Regardless of why the VW workers rejected this proposal in particular, it’s worth noting how the paradigms of unions have changed in recent years. I’m interested to see if this decision will have a snowball effect on other, similar situations.