Employees at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee have rejected joining the United Automobile Workers union in a major defeat for organized labor in the South.
The workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga voted 712-626 to stay out of the union after a lobbying fight in which Republican politicians warned unionization could lead Volkswagen and automobile companies to leave the state.
Volkswagen actually offered some support for the UAW in its effort, which deepened the blow to UAW.
Union officials praised Volkswagen but blamed politicians who had warned workers that by joining they union, they could hurt their own economic interests.
“We commend Volkswagen for its commitment to global human rights, to worker rights and trying to provide an atmosphere of freedom to make a decision,” UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s Southern organizing, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee.”
UAW officials vowed they would not give up in their effort to organize workers in the South, a region that historically has been much more difficult to unionize.