UAW organizing at VW moves forward

On Sept. 15 the United Auto Workers launched a historic “Stand Up Strike” against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (which includes Chrysler). After securing big contract gains, the union concluded the strike six weeks later.

Attempting to thwart unionizing at their plants, non-union auto companies, such as Volkswagen, Mercedes and Toyota followed the strike with the “UAW bump” — large pay raises. But the workers weren’t swayed. On Nov. 29, the UAW announced an organizing drive at all 13 unorganized companies simultaneously and on Feb. 21 publicly committed $40 million to the effort.

Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with UAW President Shawn Fain.

The UAW made another milestone public on March 18. The first workers to file for a representation election, VW workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, submitted their petition to the National Labor Relations Board after a “supermajority” of the 4,100 workers signed cards stating they want to be represented by the UAW. The election will be held April 17-19.

“Volkswagen has spent billions of dollars expanding in Chattanooga, but right now safety is a major issue in our plant. Just the other day, I was almost hit by four 500-plus pound crates while I was driving to deliver parts. That incident should’ve been followed up within the hour, but even after I clocked out, no one asked me about it,” said VW logistics worker Victor Vaughn. (uaw.org)

This is a significant development, given that the UAW lost two previous plantwide elections at VW, in 2014 (workers.org/2014/02/13088/) and 2019. In 2014 anti-union organizations and politicians ran a massive scare campaign, falsely claiming that the company would close the plant if the union won the election. In 2019, the anti-UAW effort exploited a well-publicized corruption scandal in the union, which included bribe-taking, kickbacks from vendors and theft of union funds.

Now, with many corrupt leaders and staff ousted, a new, more militant leadership and strong contracts without concessions, the UAW has a good chance of winning union representation in Chattanooga. With most non-union auto plants located in the U.S. South, a win at VW could be the start of an organizing push throughout the region, in auto and beyond.

The UAW’s historic organizing drive and the strike that preceded it represent a return to class struggle unionism. The next big step for the UAW is to break with the Democratic Party, particularly President Joe Biden, aka “Genocide Joe.”

 

Martha Grevatt

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Martha Grevatt

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