How to Get 500 Comments and Pissed Off Commenters – Mention Unions

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Dave

Dave is a part-time blogger that writes about whatever suits him at the time.

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109 Responses

  1. Avatar James Hanley says:

    It’s worth noting that a number of conservative state legislators weighed in before the vote, threatening to not give VW any more development funds if they unionized. Not only does this seem like it was rather stupid, given that VW is planning to open another plant and is dithering between TN and Mexico (“Fish you; we’d rather have no new jobs than have unionized jobs!”), but it also seems like yet another example of conservatives demonstrating that they aren’t really pro-free market at all (given that VW favored the pro-union vote). Heck, in this case they weren’t even being pro-business.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to James Hanley says:

      Concurred.

      Interestingly, I think VW would have been fine without a union for their American plant but the German unionists urged the issue because under German law, they have board seats.

      The UAW agreed not to do home visits because those don’t happen in Germany. It is also worth noting that the South as traditionally had very weak unions for a variety of reasons and seeing unions as a yankee-immigrant thing.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

      I had heard, too, that those threats are a violation of law; though the report didn’t go into specifics of which laws, so wasn’t as informing as I would like.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        Intimidation of workers before a union vote. Seems pretty sketchy as an interpretation, though. It’s one thing if the company says “unionize and we’ll put jobs in Mexico instead of here,” but quite another thing if a U.S. Senator (Bob Corker, famous for outrageous push polls) says “they told me that.”

        The most that could come of the claim is a re-do of the election on grounds that his statements intimidated workers. I can’t imagine a way in which he could be held liable for his statements.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        James, I think it had more to do with promised withholding of state-offered benefits as punishment to businesses; that’s why it intrigued me; it wasn’t labor law, which is what you’d expect to see.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        @zic
        Here’s what I saw. It seems you saw something different.

        But I’d still be dubious–absent further information–about the claim you heard. For one, as I understand it, the funds haven’t been promised yet, they’re just one of those “possible, and all else being equal likely, but discretionary” things. For two, no legislator by him/herself can ensure a positive vote for funds doesn’t happen. So I think this is plausibly described as “legislator expresses opinion about how legislature will respond.” Certainly plausible as a defense, I’d guess, if the issue ever came to court.

        It may violate the spirit of the law, but there’s no law against that.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic says:

        I saw what Zic did. Several state legislators said that the next round of incentives wouldn’t pass if VW is unionized:

        To step up the pressure, State Senator Bo Watson, who represents a suburb of Chattanooga, warned that the Republican-controlled legislature was unlikely to approve further subsidies to Volkswagen if the workers embraced the U.A.W., a threat that might discourage the company from expanding.

        I have a hard time with it being illegal, though, because from what I heart it wasn’t a direct threat. It could be construed as a warning or an observation. “Getting you those incentives is going to be harder with the UAW involved.” (They might have demands, we might view the incentives as less worthwhile an investment because we think the UAW will kill you, etc.)Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @james-hanley I heard on the radio, a snippet as I was getting out of the car. From it, I drew the conclusion that there was some other due process (promising to withhold funds from state programs that are applied for by businesses as a threat) that was a violation of law.

        But I’ve googled, and cannot confirm this, and don’t know if it was a researched piece or some bobbleheaded yapping. I asked because I’d meant to look into it more, it piqued my interest.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Thanks, @will-truman that verifies what I heard; though there was a definite accusation this as law breaking.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        I found this:

        A state may not, that is, condition tax incentives on the bare fact that a firm is union or nonunion. Absent some clear, genuine, and specific proprietary interest in discriminating against union employers, such selective use of state tax incentives would be impermissible under federal law.

        Seems strange to me that withholding tax incentives as a punitive measure would be illegal but threatening to withhold them wouldn’t be. But I ain’t no lawyer.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        Nice find, @stillwater

        So essentially, the tax incentives were for a future expansion, and if the workers voted to approve the Union, the lawmakers were essentially saying they’d kill the expansion.

        That actually does, if accurate, sound like a violation of labor laws.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        @zic

        As you know, accusations are easy, proof is hard. And outraged people are apt to state their feelings as facts.

        I have no problem, though, with calling it unseemly. I really think those legislators were out of line, and as I noted above, given that VW was favorable toward unionization it shows that they’re not really pro-market, as they probably think they are. (Kind of like all the conservatives who screeched about Coke’s multi-lingual “America the Beautiful” ad during the Super Bowl, oblivious to the fact that it was very much a matter of the market at work.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        To fill that out a bit: when a state legislator says that xe (hah!) would withhold tax incentives as a leveraging tool, they’re effectively saying that they’ll draw up legislation, present it as a bill, put it on the floor for vote, and ask the governor to sign those withholdings into law.

        How could that be legal if the punitive portion isn’t? The intent is exactly the same.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        The state can legally decline to give VW development dollars (assuming it hasn’t already bindingly promised them). That it would do so after a union vote is, I believe, legally irrelevant, because VW is not entitled to them.

        And a legislator can legally draw up any wacky-ass bit of legislation they want, including legislation that is blatantly unconstitutional. And they can “threaten” to do so, because submitting a bill is throwing it to the mercies of the rest of the legislature–the threatening legislator does not have the power of disposition over whether the threat is carried out; that’s well beyond xer’s (hah! back at ya) control.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        I’m pretty sure VW didn’t intend on being in the middle of a US labor-relations lawsuit.

        But I think they may find themselves there, hard pressed between anti-labor politicians and UAW.

        Every time I reported organizing efforts, I found the disinformation astonishing. (My reporting was on a service-sector worker’s unions, no names given to protect the stupid.) And it went all ’round; the union workers didn’t comprehend, the companies didn’t comprehend, and the workers were left trying to figure out how to vote in knee-deep piles of shit information.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic says:

        I think the trick here is demonstrating that it was actually a threat, rather than a prediction or a warning.

        If they said “Unionization will mean that we will kill further incentives” is one thing.

        But “It is less likely there will be the votes if the UAW is involved” is another.

        It’s possible that if future incentives are (unreasonably?) denied that VW or the UAW would have a case against them. But I’m not seeing it with what has been presented thus far. It would be similar to saying “We’d have a harder time getting a non-union company incentives through our union-friendly legislature” which is different than actually saying “If you don’t unionize we will kill it dead.”Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @james-hanley

        That it would do so after a union vote is, I believe, legally irrelevant, because VW is not entitled to them.

        The problem is with your timeline; the threat was made before the union vote, a promise of what would happen after the vote if produced a certain outcome.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic says:

        To fill that out a bit: when a state legislator says that xe (hah!) would withhold tax incentives as a leveraging tool, they’re effectively saying that they’ll draw up legislation, present it as a bill, put it on the floor for vote, and ask the governor to sign those withholdings into law.

        I’m not sure if that’s the case here or not, though. My parsing of Watson’s wording is that they would have to do something proactive in order to give the incentives and not to take them away.

        It would indeed be different if the incentives were already guaranteed and then backtracked. It’d be a much harder case for the legislators to make that this isn’t a matter of retaliation.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        zic,

        I meant that it’s irrelevant that a vote to deny economic development funding would come after the union vote. That was in response to Stillwater’s suggestion that the “punitive portion” wouldn’t be legal–in contrast I’d say it would be.

        I’m with Will here; you can’t prove it was a threat because no legislator is in a position to actually carry out the threat. It was a warning, a heavy handed warning, sure, but legislators get lots of leeway on these things. If they’re not getting personal benefits out of it, or are in a position to personally deliver/deny benefits to someone, they can say just about any damn thing they want.

        I’m open to argument, of course, if anyone has a better read on exactly what law was supposed to have been violated, and its text and/or application. But with what I’ve heard, it sounds like the claim of a legal violation is with near certainty an overextended interpretation of the law.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        James,

        The threat would only be illegal (if at all) if the threatened behavior is illegal, and it seems to me that behavior would only be illegal if it was in fact discriminatory, as per this quote

        Absent some clear, genuine, and specific proprietary interest in discriminating against union employers…

        If withheld tax incentives are given to other non-union auto manufacturers (or other relevantly similar firms), it seems to me the condition would be met. Does it obtain, tho? I’m under the impression that VW is the only car company with a plant in Tenn.

        Given all that, the threat can’t be illegal if the threatened action isn’t illegal, it seems to me.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        Add:

        So basically I agree with you. Especially so given the difficulty, as you say, in demonstrating that a politician’s words in a context like this constitute a threat.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic says:

        It seems to me that there are two aspects of this. First, there is the threat. The threat itself could be illegal, regardless of the intent to carry it out. If this is the case, we should actually find out because the UAW will file a complaint and the NLRB will demand a new vote.

        The second is the actual withholding of tax incentives, which is what Stillwater is citing (it seems to me). We’re not going to find out either way on this one since the union was voted down. (Unless there the NLRB demands another vote, in which case we could find out somewhere down the line.)Report

      • Avatar Sharkskin-Suited Olive Oil Importer in reply to zic says:

        Alls I said was ‘Ya gotta nice fact’ry here, I’d hate to see anytin happen to it.’ That’s not a tret, that’s a wadaycalit, an expression of good wishes.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

        Stillwater,

        Ah, I misunderstood what you were saying before.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        First, I’m not trying to determine if it this was or wasn’t a violation, only if it is a potential violation. I’d heard something, and I wondered. (Sometimes, it’s good to ask questions, and on the internet, hard to have those questions not taken as a position or opinion.)

        I agree with Will, we’ll see what the UAW does.

        From disputes I have covered, a lot of this might well hinge on the talks and ongoing expansion plans between VW and political officials that have already taken place; if, for instance, there were plans for future phases of development included in this particular plant opening; without that context, we cannot know if this rises to a threat or is simply a lawmaker expressing an opinion. Or so I suspect.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        Will,

        The second is the actual withholding of tax incentives, which is what Stillwater is citing (it seems to me). We’re not going to find out either way on this one since the union was voted down.

        I don’t think it would require the union to actually have existed for the claim of illegality to get tossed. I think the condition is uniformity of policy across union and non-union firms. So the legislature could have threatened it and implemented it legally just so long as they withheld tax incentives to existing non-union firms as well. But since that’s a hypothetical on two counts, you’re totally right about that lack of pudding to find the truth in.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        Which is to say, so’s to avoid confusion, that I’ve changed my mind over the course of the thread. Initially I was inclined to think that the threat, if carried out, would be illegal. Now I think it would only be illegal if the incentives were not uniformly applied to similar firms. But there are no similar firms. So no illegality.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @stillwater, that depends on what ‘similar’ means; the same industry, similar workforce skills, or seeking similar incentives.

        This does not seem obvious to me; but I’ve done enough business writing to have experience suggest that in the application for tax incentives, etc., offered by states, ‘similar’ would be an industrial classification and perhaps a measure of jobs created; not necessarily the same business.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        Damn, now I’m going the other way again on this, that it is illegal to specifically cite unionization of a justification for withholding tax incentives from a specific firm.

        Where’s a lawyer when you need one? Hey, I just got run over by a Jaguar! Major neck injuries!

        That oughta call em in.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to zic says:

        Yeah, zic, you’re way ahead of me on this. I’m gonna stop babbling now.

        {{{Mebbe.}}}Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

        “I think the trick here is demonstrating that it was actually a threat, rather than a prediction or a warning.”

        Might it also have to do with who was making the threat/warning/prediction?

        I’m not that well versed on collective bargaining law, but I would think it would largely limit itself to parties directly involved with the public or private entities that are/might be unionized. I would not think the restrictions would apply to journalists, pundits, politicians stumping, etc.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to James Hanley says:

      This whole thing stunk the second the outside opponents of unionization (the politicians and the national interest groups) began to throw their bulls–t into the mix. I’m hardly what one would call “pro-union”, but I’m calling it like I see it.

      I read about the politicians and the possibility of reducing incentive packages and my jaw dropped. How the heck does this serve the interests of the constituents? Talk about cutting off one’s nose to spite the face.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave says:

        I almost wrote a post about it on my blog, and intended to title it “Tennessee Hates Own Face, Threatens Nose.”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Dave says:

        I can come up with some theoretical reasons why to withhold or reduce incentive packages, setting aside legality I mean. Mostly based on other things to do with that money, or more specifically other companies to give that money to instead.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave says:

        @will-truman

        I oppose giving the money on principle. If we’d adopt my rent-seeking amendment that kind of state funding would be banned.

        But since TN’s going to make a practice of it, refusing it out of spite and losing a bunch of possible jobs seems short-sighted.

        But as you say, there are a variety of reasons that could be given to justify not giving it to VW, which just makes it all that much more difficult to sustain a potential claim that state legislators interfered with the union election.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    the amount of outside influence this unionization campaign attracted, especially from the opposition, was disproportionate to its significance

    Are you saying Freedom!!! (!!) is insignificant, Dave? Really?

    Apparently so.

    The thing that struck me about the GOP response was how clearly it revealed that the GOP is a party defined by what they’re against, not what they’re for.

    Or, ala Cleek’s Law, that what they’re for is the opposite of whatever liberals are for.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Stillwater says:

      Again correct. They hate unions so much that they were willing to send VW to Mexico if the UAW was successful. This is not serving the constituents of your state very well. Unless their real constituents are people who would worry about the appearance of unions in the South.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Stillwater says:

      Stillwater,

      Heh. I guess I should be more careful and stick to easy to peg stereotypes 😛

      Given the 53% to 47% vote count, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that at some point in this process, a majority of workers supported this, even if it was 50% plus one.

      Have you seen this?

      http://www.no2uaw.com/top-10-reasons-to-vote-no.html

      Three or four of the points seem fair, but a lot of this is sketchy if not wrong. I read the neutrality agreement referenced in (1). It seemed…well…neutral.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Dave says:

        A bunch of it makes empirical claims without any supporting evidence, a bunch of it is just ideological ranting. Some of it is compelling.

        I like this one the best tho:

        Another Reason to Vote NO: The UAW spends tens of millions of dollars electing politicians who want to disarm law-abiding Americans through gun control.

        That’s delicious, rare beef, it is.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Dave says:

        I don’t have a problem opposing an organization based on its political positions, as the expression goes, sometimes it’s not what’s said but how it’s said that matters. I had to bang my head against a desk after reading that one.

        I am an ardent believer that the Second Amendment protects an individual right but even I have my limits.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    Here’s the dispute (about a potential labor law violation) as reported by the Tennessean.
    http://www.tennessean.com/article/20140214/NEWS02/302140070/Corker-s-remarks-UAW-VW-plant-draw-fire-from-labor-experts

    Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee may have crossed a line this week in saying a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga is “assured” of getting a new family of vehicles to build if its workers reject unionization, labor experts said.

    Corker’s comments could be construed as “coercive” and could provide grounds for the United Auto Workers to contest any vote by plant workers rejecting unionization, said Angela Cornell, who directs the Labor Law Clinic at the Cornell University Law School.

    “Employees have what’s been recognized by our Supreme Court as a fundamental right to engage in this process and decide whether to organize or not,” she said. “And it seems as if things are so riled up in that community that they’re starting to encroach on employees’ free choice.”

    By the end of the story, there is a dispute as to if the Union would threaten the new line or if they have nothing to do with one another.

    What’s really interesting here, at least to me, is VW’s management philosophy that including workers in decision making and plant management is good policy.

    Because it is.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic says:

      Thanks for the link. The problem I see with reversing the results on this premises is that Corker is not affiliated with any party and was not actually speaking for any party (since VW was neutral and not campaigning against it). From my understanding, it would be a problem if some VW exec said that, or if they could establish some link here.

      What’s funny, to me, is that Corker’s defense is much, much stronger if he is lying or his source was weak.

      I have an affection for the German model of giving labor a seat at the table. I’d have been 100% behind the unionization (a rare stance for me) if I was more sure that would be the end result, rather than unionization followed by adversarial negotiations.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:

        What’s funny, to me, is that Corker’s defense is much, much stronger if he is lying or his source was weak.

        Heh, you know, if VW actually wants the union, as opposed to just being neutral…VW should just go ahead and ‘admit’ they told Corker, deliberately, so that he would tell everyone, to sway the vote.

        Thus putting VW in violation of labor law and forcing a new vote. 😉

        But, seriously, why the hell is a vote even required if the company is fine with it?Report

      • If they did admit it, they could be looking at some serious fines.

        A vote is required because a majority of employees may not be fine with it.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        @davidtc VW needs the union to manage the plant the way they manage their others; it’s the only way to bring the labor force to the management table; and this is how VW conducts its business.

        That said, VW does not need UAW as the union; it just needs a union that sends labor representatives to their Work Council, representatives of labor who work with the plant managers.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        And I should add: It would seem to me that while VW wants a union, they might prefer to have it be a plant-specific union, and not an industry union; a union that works with the plant for the plant’s benefit, not with the industry labor force for their competitors benefit.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Will Truman says:

        But wouldn’t that basically be considered a “sweetheart union” under current law, and thus be illegal?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        I wonder if what VW wants isn’t possible under US law.

        Perhaps the flaw is in the law, that it sets labor and management up as adversaries, and doesn’t have the flexibility for more cooperative labor/management relationships?

        (Pondering, I do not know.)Report

      • @dave has previously commented that the German model wouldn’t work in the US without substantial change. I think he was referring to this. Were you, Dave?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        VW needs the union to manage the plant the way they manage their others; it’s the only way to bring the labor force to the management table; and this is how VW conducts its business.

        Why do they need a union for this? There’s nothing preventing them from inviting factory workers to management meetings and taking their input into account. They could also hold elections for the workers to decide who would represent them at those meetings.Report

      • I’ve read in at least a few places that they would actually need a union to do what they want to do. Don’t know if it’s true, or if it’s possible even with a union, but I can imagine some reasons why. Basically if it looks like a union and quacks like a union, you might have to go through the whole union process.

        That doesn’t explain why they would go through UAW in particular, but that could be a combination of UAW courtship of the employees and VW stepping out of the way in a vote to avoid angering the German unions.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        My suspicion is that you heard that from people for whom “Our crazy union laws are sooooo restrictive that Volkswagen workers can’t form a union even though management wants them to and now they can’t run their business properly!” was just too good to check.

        I can’t say for sure that they really don’t need an officially certified union, but it’s hard to imagine how.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        Erik Loomis, who is a history professor specializing in, among other things, the history of American labor, writes that

        the American version of the German works council […] would be illegal without a union election (would violate the company union provisions of the National Labor Relations Act).Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        Ah, I was wrong. The reason German-style works councils are illegal in the US without union representation is that employer-sponsored labor organizations are illegal under the theory that an employer-sponsored organization is necessarily employer-dominated. The relevant case is Electromation, Inc. v. NLRB, where the Teamsters filed a complaint after losing a certification election at a company that had something similar to a works council.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will,

        Good catch. I was referring to that model being used in the upper management or board of directors level of a larger publicly traded company. A works council at a plant seems ok to me in theory.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will Truman says:

        So it isn’t possible to form a union at a company without the support/cooperation of an existing union?

        So the workers at Tesla couldn’t form Tesla Workers Association without it being a part of the UAW or IAM or some such org?

        If that is the case, I’d argue that is a big part of the reason unions are on the decline.Report

      • MRS, a union would be needed, but it wouldn’t have to be UAW.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        Going by what’s in the Electromation decision, workers can form their own union, but it can’t be employer-sponsored. Which is to say, employers can’t help organize it, provide resources, or allow meetings on company time. That’s just my reading of the opinion, though.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman @brandon-berg

        I see that as a serious flaw with regard to union formation. I mean, how hands off does management have to be? Can they suggest it? Point out resources? Give it their blessing?

        If there is a factory & the workers there are reasonably happy, but want to form a Union for whatever reason, why should they have to tie themselves to a broader organization, especially if they find the broader org to hold values contrary to their own?

        I mean, if I owned a company where I had a large number of employees, I would want them to form a union/workers council, & I would want their elected leadership involved in the operation of the company, but I would most certainly NOT want an organization like the UAW or the IAM anywhere near us unless the employees truly wanted it.Report

      • MRS, they wouldn’t have had to join a larger union. They just couldn’t form a union under the direction of management. I’m guessing they went with the UAW because they were courted by the UAW and the UAW know the intricacies of labor law. It would probably be much more difficult to get a local union off the ground, especially when the workers themselves don’t come from union stock. They’d have to spend a lot of money on lawyers, or spend their nights reading law.

        I, too, am kinda surprised that the VW didn’t take a more skeptical look towards the UAW in particular. Presumably, the UAW had a good sales pitch (“We took it in the chin to save the industry in Detroit, and we’ll take it in the chin for you if we have to.”) or VW was afraid to come out against it in fear of alienating their German unions.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman

        It would probably be much more difficult to get a local union off the ground, especially when the workers themselves don’t come from union stock. They’d have to spend a lot of money on lawyers, or spend their nights reading law.

        Again, a flaw. Getting a union off the ground should be easy. Or at the very least, if you want to, the NLRB should send you a lawyer to help you get things moving. It would suck if the only reasonable way I could start a business was to get another business to take me on as a subsidiary.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        Is it within the charter of the NLRB to aid unionization rather than regulating it?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will Truman says:

        @mike-schilling

        Not sure, but if it isn’t, perhaps it should beReport

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        I can hear Fox News now, complaining that under Obama the government is paying workers to unionize.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        Mike,
        UPMC got fined by the NLRB a while back for interfering with unionization efforts.
        So, yeah, the NLRB does step in when folks are particularly egregious about firing
        union organizers.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        Is it within the charter of the NLRB to aid unionization rather than regulating it?

        You understand, don’t you, that this regulation is to tie the hands of employers, rather than of unions, right? It was the Teamsters who filed the complaint in Electromation, because the employer was on their turf.

        The reason employer-sponsored unions aren’t allowed is that the government doesn’t want employer-influenced unions displacing independent unions.

        Regarding the NLRB more generally, unions are regulated in the US for the same reason utilities are: the law gives them special privileges, and they need to be prevented from abusing those privileges.

        But if you think this is a raw deal for unions, then by all means, let’s repeal the NLRA.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        I was asking about the propriety of MRS’s suggestion that the NLRB supply free legal aid to fledgling unions.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Will Truman says:

        True, the GOP would never permit such a thing for a fledgling, independent union.

        Of course, the NLRB could collect a list of labor lawyers who are willing to work at reduced rates, or pro-bono, to get a small, fledgling union off the ground. Then that list could be provided to applicants.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

        Or the AFL-CIO could. But either way works for me.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

      Zic,

      That’s the issue I was talking about above. I just don’t see a legal violation here. Corker’s a U.S. Senator, he doesn’t even have a vote on whether the state gives VW money. This is a free speech issue–he can yammer about this as much as he wants. The only possible legal claim is against VW, if what he said–about VW telling him they wouldn’t build in TN if the UAW won–is factually true. And even then it’s not at all clear such a claim would legally work, since it would have been something whispered in a third party’s ear and not meant for public consumption (at least allow plausible deniability that it was meant to be heard in public), while publicly they were saying they were good with unionization.

      I really don’t see any there there.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        I don’t have a knowledge of the depth of labor law; but I’d wonder if a politician’s input would rise to a level of interference. In the disputes I covered, the politicians pretty much kept their mouths shut, except to express either a pro-union or pro-business stance, as their party affiliation would suggest. But that’s just anecdotal, too; and doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

        My guess is that this is something that hasn’t been hashed out in the courts yet; that interference by a sitting politician with a sworn duty to uphold federal law might be unsettled law.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        “Interference”–as a legal matter–has to be established. You can’t ban talk just because it might influence people’s decisions without running afoul of the First Amendment, so interference is going to have a high bar. Again, we’re talking about a U.S. Senator who has no control over the state’s purse strings. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t see how interference could be established.

        I think you’re trying to ascribe possibility illegality to an act just because it’s a bad act that bears some resemblance to acts that are actually illegal.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        That is to say, I don’t think there’s anything here for the courts to hash out. This is a political issue, not a legal one.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley I’m not trying to ascribe anything, I’m trying to understand why a labor-relations academic at Cornell University suggested this is a labor-law violation.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        And as I understand it, if it is a violation, all it means is that there’s a whole lot of press about the violation and then the same workers who already voted get to hold a second election; I don’t think there’s necessarily any criminal activity involved, though there can be.Report

      • That may be it, @zic. A violation per se (or by an individual) may not actually be found (since Corker’s out of their jurisdiction) but they may require a revote on the grounds of an unfair vote. I’m seeing enough people saying the latter that I’m giving it at least some credence as a possibility.

        The good news is that we shall find out. If UAW doesn’t pursue it, or it does pursue it and loses, we’ll know one way. If they pursue it and win, we’ll know in the other and that’s that. UAW lawyers are probably reading over the law and case history as we speak.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        zic,

        OK, but it seems to me that voiding the election is a world of difference from violating the law, so we’re quite a ways from where we started.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley voiding the election (and holding a new election) is the remedy for violating the law. There may be other criminal charges brought against individuals; but the NLRB is the government agency charged with conducting these elections and their remedy for an unfair election is another election.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Voiding the election does not punish Corker or state legislators for legal violations. If there is no judgement and penalty against any of them, we can’t say they violated the law.

        As I understand it, those engaging in a union vote deserve a fair election, and the NLRB can determine they didn’t get a fair election. But there’s a distinct gap between that and a legal judgement that Corker or anyone else violated the law.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

      Alcoa’s CEO used unions to endrun around perverse management incentives to make sure worker safety was solid.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    So we’re guessing that the comments from the politician influenced some of the votes? Would that really be effective in manipulating the vote? What I am missing here?

    I will say that right-to-work is a big reason why car manufacturing is blowing up in the South. There’s no other logical reason for it to be happening like it is. I can’t blame a politician for wanting to protect that trend.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Personally, my guess is that there was at some point enough support to unionize and that support was eroded in part by what seemed to be, to me, a disproportionate response to this unionization effort by outside forces. We’re talking about 1,600 workers in a relatively unique situation. To have a works council established at the VW plant, unionization is required.

      I agree that right-to-work laws and avoiding the UAW and right to work laws are two reasons why the South was able to attract car manufacturers. There’s no debating that and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to keep it that way.

      I am of the view that even if the UAW did win, VW’s situation there is so unique that I wouldn’t equate the victory to the UAW establishing a foothold in the South.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Dave says:

        Personally, my guess is that there was at some point enough support to unionize and that support was eroded in part by what seemed to be, to me, a disproportionate response to this unionization effort by outside forces.

        It’s better to say that there was enough support to hold a vote; the original support was for the right to vote on a union in the shop; I’ve interviewed many people who vote to hold a union vote specifically so that they could vote against unionizing. There’s actually some logic to this; without a vote, organizers often keep trying to organize. With a vote, the matter becomes decided, and if that vote fails, the organizers often pack up and go somewhere else to organize.Report

  5. Avatar zic says:

    So after some reading:

    1) VW wants a work council, which includes representatives of labor, this is how the manage their plants;
    2) Under US law, such a council would have to be a democratically elected by labor, hence would require a union;
    3) The UAW saw this as an opportunity to organize the plant;
    4) In all press; UAW is basically described as its pre-bailout entity; there’s little to suggest that the union might have changed it’s attitude toward working with management, though that’s what I presume happened in order to come to agreements that put the industry on a sounder footing;
    5) The union in question does not have to be a UAW union; it could be plant specific;
    6) The workers in the plant seem to want a work council;
    7) Several labor relations experts have floated the idea that Corker’s statements rise to the level of interference and could void the election.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    So it seems VW could just recognize a union, since there were enough votes to vote for a union:

    Alternate path to union representation

    In addition to NLRB-conducted elections, federal law provides employees a second path to choose a representative: They may persuade an employer to voluntarily recognize a union after showing majority support by signed authorization cards or other means. These agreements are made outside the NLRB process. If a union is voluntarily recognized, its status as bargaining representative cannot be challenged during a reasonable period for bargaining, which the Board defines as not less than six months (and not more than one year) after the parties’ first bargaining session.

    Source: http://www.nlrb.gov/what-we-do/conduct-electionsReport

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Here is the Lawyers, Guns, and Money take on it:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/02/a-titanic-lost

    The behavior of various Republican politicians was unseemly but at the same time, I do not think it was decisive enough to cause the vote to fail. The South for various sociological reasons has always been resistant to unions as pointed out in the post I’ve linked to. Its been that way since the South started to industrialize during the late 19th century. The mill workers in the Southern mill towns were probably the least militant industrial work force in the United States at the time.Report

  8. Avatar Damon says:

    Frankly, I’m surprised at the narrow vote, especially for the UAW. My data is a bit old, but most of the UAW guys I worked with in the late 80s and early 90s hated the union.Report

  9. Being held captive and forced to work for no wages or no ability to negotiate wages is being enslaved. Failing to win a union vote is not being enslaved.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Will Truman says:

      I prefer a bit more broader definition of slavery: whether you own yourself in full or in part. If not in full, you’re obviously a slave.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

        How does this square with a mortgage?
        Or a marriage?Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to Kim says:

          @kim
          Those are voluntary transactions.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

            so is belonging to a union. so is having a job (well, not ALWAYS. but we’ll leave direct threats to your children out of it.)Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to Damon says:

            As a right-to-work state, I don’t think union membership is required at a union shop.

            VW wants representation on a council from the labor force to help manage the plant; this is how they do business. In the US, the way US law is written, this requires a union to elect representatives from the labor force to that council.

            Because there was enough cards turned in to hold a vote (over 50%), VW now has the option to simply recognize a union; it is not clear if this has to be UAW or can be independent; self-formed. The problem is again with US law, the labor pool has to fund this union with all its legal requirements; the corporation cannot.

            So Damon, the whole reversion to slavery, etc. really is just ideology and has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It’s trolling.

            You can do better.Report

            • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

              This post seems to have decided to stop nesting comments. Strange.

              I did want to make sure @damon saw my post above.

              Sort of a trolls-rights discussion; take one course, and actually engage. Take another and disrupt. Trolls to the second.

              don’t be that guy.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to zic says:

                Threading breaks when a comment that somebody responded to is deleted.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Will Truman says:

                Troll outbreak breaks in the space-thread continuum.

                Cool.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to zic says:

                @kim @zic

                @zic Yeah, my post “I prefer a bit more broader definition of slavery: whether you own yourself in full or in part. If not in full, you’re obviously a slave.” was a comment ONLY to Will’s comment above mine (in the new non-indented form) and was in no way intended to be troll-ish.

                @Kim And my comment “those are voluntary transactions” was only related to your question about mortgages and marriage. I’m fully aware of closed and open shop states. I currently live in a closed shop state and did when I was a UAW member-cause everyone had to be in the union to work in the shop.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon says:

                lol. sorry for confusion – totally my fault.
                (I have listened to teachers bitch about being
                “required” to be in a union… apparently because
                that was somehow related to abortion. Did I
                mention I was canvassing for an Environmental
                Group (apparently also related to abortion)? )Report

  10. Avatar zic says:

    This strikes me as an essential read on VW, UAW, and the union vote:
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/02/after-chattanooga/

    (Much better then the NYT’s Room for Debate columns, which don’t analyze this particularly union vote, but speak to the stereotypes of unions in general.)

    Among the many good insights into this particular effort is this bit:

    The “laboratory conditions” that the NLRA promises for union secret ballot elections were obviously contaminated, although the Board has very little case law for a third party doing this, rather than a company itself.

    (Which was my suspicion, too.)

    In general, the whole piece lays out something that might deserve deeper consideration: Perhaps adversarial relations between workers and management, a tone laid out by our labor laws and the separation they create between employer and employee, is not the best way to advance the interests of workers in an environment that also allows employers to remain competitive in a global marketplace.Report

  11. Avatar zic says:

    Thanks, @damon

    I may be a liberal, but I do have concerns about unions driving businesses into the ground.

    I also have concerns, unvoiced in the press and public mostly, that unions have actually changed significantly; and the old UAW (pre-TARP) really doesn’t have much to do with things anymore; that workers recognize a healthy company is crucial to their jobs.

    When this is the case; those unions and workers deserve that credit. For I’ve seen a few mills saved because of this; and it bears considering when it comes to UAW post auto bailout.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

      1) Detroit had the idea of “make money now” pay back later. They’ve had this since the 1950’s, and you can see their pension obligations skyrocketing. (DailyKos had the pic a while back).
      2) Unions didn’t like this terribly much (isn’t good for their workers to put work in and not get a cent back later). So guess who put boots on the ground for Obamacare? That’s right, Big Auto. [I would wager that Detroit mgm’t was pleased as punch, too.]
      3) Pittsburgh Steel ran themselves into the ground, by refusing to upgrade — everyone got lazy, not just the unions.

      This isn’t to say that unions can’t run companies into the ground… it’s just not an ordinary thing.
      My local paper just ran an article about a company that reinvests in good industries (takes over firms, and makes them profitable again) — they’ve worked hard to build up some trust with the unions — that they won’t just be carpetbaggers.Report

  12. Avatar notme says:

    James:

    Why does your post only focus on the statements that Repubs made and ignores Obama’s pro union statement as well as those from other members of his admin? Don’t those statements count as interference as well?

    http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140214/AUTO0104/302140124

    PS My power went out for several days due to ice so I had to abandon the other thread.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to notme says:

      I hadn’t heard of them. I’d say they’re the exact degree of interference as Corker’s statements, since, like Corker, they’re federal officials who have no control over whether Tennessee granted VW any money.

      I imagine, though, that our liberal friends here would be less bothered by Obama’s statements than Corker’s.

      Glad your power’s back on; hope the days without power weren’t too problematic.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        The quote from the linked article, just to be on record:

        “more concerned about German shareholders than American workers.”

        From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140214/AUTO0104/302140124#ixzz2tpIxUsvm

        A fragment, really. Sourced by anonymous politicians.

        I’d be interested to hear arguments that it’s exactly the same.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to James Hanley says:

        Zic:

        Nice try at downplaying Obama’s interference as well as that of members his admin but are you really going to say that the report is suspect? That is lame. Why not be honest and say yes, it looks like Obama and his folks were publicly favoring the union?

        James:

        Power was out for four days. I left and stayed with friends. When I came back the fridge was dead. I had to get a repairman to fix my fridge b/c the power flashes fried the switch that turns the compressor on/off.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        @notme, glad your power’s back.

        My question would be great for you to answer, too. Talking about a union-organizing attempt in general is not the same thing as talking about specific outcomes that will fall out of the union election.

        Our good Senator here said that a ‘no’ vote would bring a new line to the plant, and a ‘yes’ vote would stop future state incentives.

        Our good President sad that politicians in TN seem to care more for VW stockholders then TN workers.

        If talk is the only criteria for interference, then you would be right. But we do have free speech, and talk is fine; it’s the content of the talk that rises to the level of interference.

        Content gives us one person saying politicians seem to care about this group more then that group on the one hand, and if the vote goes certain ways, these things will happen on the other.

        These are not the same thing.Report

  13. Avatar notme says:

    As expected, the sore union losers appeal to Obama’s NLRB to fix the result for them. We already know what Obama thinks of the matter but that isn’t interference.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/joannmuller/2014/02/21/uaw-claims-political-interference-tainted-union-vote-at-vw-plant/Report

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