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What do China’s communist rulers and some top Tennessee Republican politicians have in common?


They don’t want free trade unions.

German-based Volkswagen operates factories all over the world. They include plants in in China and in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where workers recently rejected the United Auto Workers in a close and controversial vote that the union is appealing.

VW’s Chinese and American plants are the only ones where employees don’t have a works council – an arrangement where the union and management work together equally on issues of mutual concern -- and an independent union.

Anti-union Volunteer State politicians, including GOP Sen. Bob Corker, Gov. Bill Haslam and leaders of the Republican-majority state legislature, made common cause with outside conservative groups in a campaign to turn Chattanooga VW employees against the UAW.

Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, flat out said that if the plant went union, VW wouldn’t add a new SUV line in Chattanooga. VW denied Corker’s claim, but he insisted it was true.

At the same time, two top GOP lawmakers in Nashville, the state capital, warned that the legislature might curb tax incentives to the auto maker if VW unionized. Haslam added that a pro-union vote would hurt the Volunteer State’s efforts to attract industries that supply VW.

The UAW says such pressure from powerful politicians unfairly swayed the vote against the union. The union called their actions “an outrage” that amounted to “extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers.”

VW was officially neutral in the vote.

While the Tennessee GOP bigwigs demonized the UAW, the Chinese communist leadership at least says nice things about unions.

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But unions are anything but free in China’s “workers’ and peasants’ paradise.” Unions in communist countries like China really represent the bosses to the workers.

Communist unions function as government puppets whose job is to squeeze more production out of workers, most of whom are poorly paid, enjoy few benefits and are forced to toil in dangerous, even deadly, conditions.

On the other hand, unions in Western democracies – unions like the UAW and IG Metall, the UAW’s German counterpart -- are free and independent. They genuinely represent workers to the bosses, and they strive for better pay, benefits and working conditions for employees.

Almost all German auto workers belong to IG Metall. Works councils are sanctioned by Germany’s constitution. German auto workers are well paid and enjoy excellent benefits and their employers are among the most profitable car and truck makers in the world.

In any event, the Republicans’ say-almost-anything-to-beat-the-union campaign would have been illegal in Germany, a country that’s every bit as democratic as the United States.

But across the board, laws protecting the basic right of workers to organize freely and bargain collectively are weaker in the United States than in any other industrial democracy.

As a result, in America it is easier for a company to defeat a union – and harder for workers to organize a union -- than any place else in the Western democratic world.

Anyway, conservative politicians like Corker and company are ever extolling the “free market.” They argue that government should leave private businesses alone as much as possible.

VW is a private global corporation. Company officials chose not to oppose a works council and the UAW. Thus, the union vote was a matter for WV and its employees, not government, except for the NLRB whose job is to safeguard workers’ rights to a free and fair election.

[/dc]Y[/dc]et when it looked like the union might win, these Tennessee politicians quickly stopped practicing what they preach about the virtues of a “free market” unfettered by government. They had no qualms about using flexing their muscles as high government officials to help keep the UAW at bay, even when VW refused to stoop to union-busting.

Berry Craig

Berry Craig