Jun 14, 2019

The union fight down south

Volkswagen factory

Photo: Erik Schelzig/AP

Today concludes a historic vote in Tennessee, where autoworkers are determining whether the Chattanooga VW plant will be the first foreign-owned auto plant in the South to unionize.

Why it matters: If the United Auto Workers prevail "in unionizing the plant, it will be a historic win for a labor organization that has spent decades trying to build influence outside of Detroit and represent more factory workers across the car-manufacturing sector," the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • "The union’s membership, which hit a peak of 1.5 million workers in 1979, has fallen to about 400,000 last year," according to the WSJ.
  • "While the foreign-car companies build millions of vehicles each year in the U.S., none of their assembly plants," is unionized, per the WSJ.

Be smart: This story line has been running for two decades, Axios' Joann Muller says.

  • "I’ve written that southern toehold headline for 15 or 20 years. Usually politicians have their thumb on the scale. Last time at VW, it was [then-Sen. Bob Corker]. He’s gone now, but I still would be surprised if this unionization vote passes."

The bottom line: Toyota and Nissan's major manufacturing operations lie in the deep South, in Alabama and Mississippi, which lack Tennessee’s history of some unionization, Reuters notes.

  • Cox Automotive analyst Michelle Krebs tells Reuters: A"win in the Deep South is not in the cards."
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