Tip Sheets

Cornell labor experts available to discuss UAW vote at VW Tennessee Plant

Media Contact

Adam Allington

Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee will vote this week on whether to organize with the United Auto Workers union.

A victory would give the UAW its first major win in years with an automaker outside the Big Three in Detroit and provide a huge boost to the UAW’s campaign to unionize other Southern auto plants.

Arthur Wheaton

Director of Labor Studies, ILR School

Art Wheaton serves as director of labor studies at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) and says the deal amounts to a big victory for labor.

Wheaton says: 

“The UAW has a good chance of winning the election in VW. They got 48% in the last vote 5 years ago and have greatly improved their image and popularity since huge gains in the Detroit Three negotiations.

“Victory would be important to increase market share of unionized auto plants. This helps increase leverage at the table in bargaining. Victory could help at Mercedes Benz in Alabama. It would still be tough to organize BMW in anti-union South Carolina. Hyundai and Kia are not as likely, but Nissan has a decent chance as well.”

Harry Katz

Jack Sheinkman Professor of Collective Bargaining & Director, Scheinman Institute

Harry Katz is a professor of collective bargaining at ILR. Katz notes that Volkswagen employees rejected previous UAW elections in 2014 and 2019, in part because of efforts from anti-union operatives.

Katz says:

“Even with initial VW corporate neutrality, the UAW confronted a hostile local business community and an active affinity group of anti-UAW workers within the workforce supported by external funding from interest groups opposed to unions. There is also evidence that shop floor management did not fully adhere to corporate management’s pledge of neutrality.

“In addition, politicians, including then Senator Corker, claimed that future investment at the Chattanooga plant would be threatened by unionization, a threat that if made by Volkswagen management would amount to an unfair labor practice.”

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