Tennessee is Pro-business, until the Business Supports the UAW

A remarkable story is unfolding in Chattanooga, TN, at the Volkswagen plant. VW is not opposing the UAW organizing drive. The company has a good working relationship with unions at its German plants, which includes Works Councils, joint union-management councils that resolve problems before they become problems. VW can’t promote the union because we have laws in this country against company unions, that is, unions that are dominated by management. But they can choose not to oppose the union drive.

So we would expect that the pro-business Republicans in Tennessee would stay out of the election. After all, pro-business should mean that corporations can run their business as they see fit. But no. Tennessee Republicans are not pro-business so much as they are anti-union. Even if the business sees an advantage in having a union, the state thinks it should be able to threaten VW with loss of incentives if they organize. Now I understand that VW doesn’t have a right to incentives and Tennessee may withhold incentives for any reason or no reason at all. But clearly giving business the freedom to operate as it wishes stops when they cross the GOP’s anti-union line.

Of course they point to Detroit, saying look what the unions did to Detroit. It’s now bankrupt. It’s a common GOP misunderstanding, to conflate the auto companies with city government. Mitt did it, too. The Free Press had an excellent story about the roots of the city’s financial problems. It has more to do with Wall Street than the UAW.

There’s another curious twist to the story — Tennessee Republicans fear some sort of domino effect. They fear that one union plant in Tennessee will mean other German plants in the South will fall to the union. I guess the union must have mysterious powers to jump from one plant to another.

Update: John Nichols at The Nation has an excellent explanation of the Works Council concept and UAW’s adaptability. 

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