The bullies failed. Assembly-line workers at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., told the United Auto Workers last week to take an outbound Chattanooga choo-choo back to Detroit.
Tennesseans seem no more interested in importing the union that destroyed Detroit than they are in sharing their paychecks with the union, which is now on the hunt for someone to blame for the expensive disaster.
The pressure on workers from union organizers, activists and company executives was intense. The UAW put a lot of money, but not much moxie, into the campaign. The union once boasted 1.5 million members, but its membership has fallen over the decades to fewer than 400,000.
Bob King, a union official, says his survival depends on pulling workers from the "transplants," as it calls foreign-automobile plants locating in the United States, in the South. Volkswagen was reckoned to be the perfect target.
In its plants in Germany, Volkswagen shares certain important workplace decisions with its workers, who are organized in "workplace councils." VW executives gave tacit approval for the union organizing in Chattanooga, giving a boost to the organizing campaign.
Union agents were free to roam the factory floor while opponents were left to deliver their message in the cold. But the message was heard and employees rejected the union by a vote of 712 to 626, a stunning defeat considering the amount of time, money and resources the union put into the campaign.
The disappointed observers on the left blame "outside forces" for the result, and, of course, racism. "The opposition, I gather," author Timothy Noah told MSNBC, "portrayed this as a kind of northern invasion, a refighting of the Civil War. Apparently there are not a lot of black employees in this particular plant, and so that kind of 'waving of the Confederate flag' was an effective strategy."
The forces from Detroit can only blame themselves. "If UAW union officials cannot win when the odds are so stacked in their favor," says Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, "perhaps they should re-evaluate the product they are selling to workers."
The race card is meant to distract attention from the real loser in Chattanooga, the "card check." The card-check strategy enables organizers to give an employee a card, and say, "Sign this if you want a secret ballot to decide the unionization issue."
The cards are taken as "proof" that workers want the union, with the secret ballot not needed.
That's what happened in Chattanooga. Mr. Mix and his organization asked federal investigators to look into what happened, but the Obama administration doesn't seem interested.
When union activists press a worker to sign a card, there's no evidence of what was said or promises made. It's an invitation to dirty tricks. A secret ballot has always been the best way to ensure fairness.
Promises of unsustainably lavish retirement and pay packages in the end weren't persuasive. The union invited its own demise in Detroit, and Tennesseans showed the good sense to be wary of repeating history in Chattanooga.
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