Detroit lies in a shambles, in large part owing to the greed of the automobile unions. The United Auto Workers once helped autoworkers achieve the good life, but then brought the Motor City to ruin with unreasonable demands. Now it's looking to move into the South to recover relevance.
Over the past four decades, the UAW has lost 75 percent of its membership. The union retained enough leverage through state laws to force executives at the "Big Three" — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — to agree to union demands that were unsustainable. A typical abuse is the "job bank," requiring the Big Three to pay union employees a full-time salary when they didn't work. The inevitable collapse not only punished shareholders, but cost taxpayers tens of billions of bailout dollars.
Michigan took the lessons to heart and adopted a right-to-work law, which took effect in March, giving employees the freedom to decide whether to join a union. This was a clear signal to the UAW that they should find other car companies to pillage.
For 18 months, UAW organizers have been campaigning at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee is a right-to-work state, unfriendly territory for unions, but Volkswagen has to deal with European Union regulations and German laws that give union bosses a loud say in how the company is run.
Under Germany's "co-determination" statute, half of Volkswagen's 20-member supervisory board represents the unions, the other half represents shareholders.
Those union representatives are boosting UAW organizing. Four Chattanooga employees cried foul in a complaint filed last week with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that they're being pushed into accepting the UAW.
Employees at Volkswagen were told that unless they give the unions a voice in the running of the company, as in Germany, the plant would not get additional car production and the jobs that go with it. Bernd Osterloh, one of the union board representatives, says, "Democracy does not end at the plant gates. This principle is not negotiable."
Under U.S. labor law, VW can't impose a German-style "works council" schemes on its own. The arrangement must be recognized through a U.S. trade union, such as the UAW, or else be considered a "company union," which is against the law.
The UAW claims employee support, but its tactics suggest otherwise. Employees were told by UAW organizers that a signature on a union "card," actually a call for a secret-ballot on whether to enable unionization, was a vote for unionizing. Others say UAW organizers handed out tickets for admission to an amusement park in exchange for signatures.
More than one-third of VW employees have signed petitions to keep the union out. They understand that the way to ruin the most successful part of America's automotive industry is to give the UAW the keys to the factory.