USA: Volkswagen workers unionize

Featured image: Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee celebrate that they get to unionize, 19th of April. Source: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

On the 19th of April the workers at the Volkswagen automotive assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, owned by the German automotive monopoly Porsche, voted to unionize. Of the 4,300 workers at the plant, 84% participated in the vote, of which 73% voted to unionize. The plant was reportedly the only Volkswagen facility in the world without any form of unionizing.

The unionizing of the workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee is part of a campaign by the automotive union to organize more of the 150,000 non-unionized automotive workers, mostly in the southern States of the USA. The campaign is building on the momentum of the six week strike against the US automotive monopolies General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, last year which achieved an 11% wage increase. As the monopolies with non-unionized workers increased wages hoping to prevent unionizing, also the non-unionized workers experienced the importance of striking.

Last year saw a significant increase in strikes in the USA, with the largest number of “work stoppages” in the country in more than 20 years, according to the US Labor Department. While the rate of union membership in the country is continuing its steady decline, the last two years have seen an increase in the total amount of unionized workers. While the majority the people in the US are in favor of unions, union busting labor laws restricts the workers’ right to unionize, and US monopolies are actively cracking down on unionizing. An analysis from 2019 found that companies used a yearly amount of 340 million USD on “union avoiding” consultants, and in 41,5% of elections to unionize, workers were charged with violating federal law.

The automotive worker working for foreign monopolies are mostly unorganized with the Volkswagen plant now being the only unionized plant of non-US automotive monopolies in the USA.

The workers in the southern US States in particular have a low rate of unionizing, with only 6% of the workers in Tennessee being members of a union. A professor of international and public affairs at Columbia university explained the significance of this event: “Companies like VW have a long legacy of going to the South to chase those lower wages. I’ve interviewed workers who thought it was illegal to unionize in the South”

On the 17th of May the workers of another German automotive monopoly, at the Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama, will vote on whether they are unionizing. The plant has around 6,000 workers.

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