Volkswagen Workers Vote to Unionize in a First as a Foreign-Owned Auto Plant

Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee just voted overwhelmingly to join the United Automobile Workers (UAW) union. This marks a first for workers at a foreign-owned auto plant in the southern region of the United States, which has historically had a weak union presence.

Last Friday, Volkswagen workers voted 2,628 to 985 to join the UAW after witnessing the impact of the union’s momentous strike this past autumn. As we previously wrote, in December 2023, the UAW announced it was launching the largest union-drive campaign in modern history, targeting 35 non-union plants of 13 automakers including Volkswagen, Mercedes, Tesla, BMW, Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai.

While Volkswagen claimed it was neutral regarding the decision of workers, the UAW had filed a union-busting lawsuit against the company in December 2023. As we previously wrote, Volkswagen confiscated UAW flyers in breakrooms and forced workers to listen to anti-union presentations.

Southern politicians were outspoken about their opposition to forming a union, including the Republican governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, who fear-mongered by claiming a union would “jeopardize jobs.”

Joe Biden was quick to exploit the opportunity to seem pro-labor, writing in a press release: “Let me be clear to the Republican governors that tried to undermine this vote: there is nothing to fear from American workers using their voice and their legal right to form a union if they so choose.” This comes less than two years after Biden himself blocked the right of US railroad workers to strike.

The UAW has so far been militant in its campaign to unify the working class, but its president, Shawn Fain, has been cozying up with Biden despite criticizing the president in the past. Time will tell which direction the leadership goes, but one thing is for certain: workers are waking up to the power they have and momentum is on their side.



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