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Tennessee Republicans Celebrate Union Loss at Volkswagen by Talking Subsidies

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Laura ClawsonSen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) threats against jobs may or may not have changed the outcome of a union election at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, in which the UAW lost a narrow victory. We’ll probably never know exactly how many workers decided to vote against unionizing after the Republican senator claimed that if they voted no, Volkswagen would quickly expand production at the plant. But Corker is certainly pleased with himself:

Corker, who had originally announced he would refrain from making public comments during the election, changed course last week after he said the union tried to use his silence to chastise other critics. Corker said after the vote that he was happy he joined the fray.“I have no idea what effect we may or may not have had,” Corker said. “But I think I would have forever felt tremendous remorse if … I had not re-engaged and made sure that people understand other arguments that needed to be put forth.”

“Other arguments that needed to be put forth” equaling Corker’s assertions, plus other politicians’ similar threats. In fact:

Corker said the day after the vote that he and other state officials planned to restart discussions with Volkswagen officials this week about state subsidies for expanded production in Chattanooga.

Those are subsidies that were explicitly threatened if workers had voted to unionize. There were, of course, other factors in the loss. As Erik Loomis points out “There were almost certainly several hundred no votes from the beginning” in a workforce with a lot of white southerners. Douglas Williams and pseudonymous organizer Cato Uticensis also argue that the UAW made significant organizing errors.

Whatever the combination of causes leading to the 712 to 626 loss, though, Tennessee Republicans made clear that their opposition to having a significant workplace organized is strong enough to threaten jobs over. Which makes total sense: Republicans want workers weak and scared. Defeating unions and keeping jobs scarce both contribute to that goal.

This article was originally printed on the Daily Kos on February 17, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.


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