Is putting a union like the UAW into Volkswagen’s only manufacturing plant in the U.S. like a person injecting himself with cancer cells?
According to Wall Street Journal editorial board member Steve Moore it is.
While union proponents may find Steve Moore’s comments last week to a group of business leaders rather inflammatory, given unions’ track record in manufacturing and VW’s prior failed experience with the UAW in the U.S., as the UAW tries to unionize Volkswagen’s plant in Tennessee, there may be some truth to Moore’s comparison.
Wall Street Journal editorial board member Steve Moore railed against the United Auto Workers union’s attempt to organize in Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant Wednesday night.
“It’s like inserting a cancer cell into a body,” he said. “That one cancer cell is going to multiply and kill the body. It’s a disruptive influence.”
The outspoken conservative addressed about 50 Chattanooga business people and civic leaders at Wednesday night’s event, which was sponsored by The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a nonprofit lobbying group that aims to advance free market policy in the state. [Emphasis added.]
Moore’s comments, coincidentally, come at a time when UAW bosses in Michigan are planning to increase dues UAW members pay to the union by an astounding 25%.
The purpose for the dues hike, according to UAW boss Bob King, is to replenish the union’s strike fund ahead of talks with Chrysler, Ford and General Motors in 2015.
King said the increase would be the equivalent of a half-hour increase in monthly wages — from 2 hours’ to 2.5 hours’ pay — and would go into the UAW’s strike fund. [Emphasis added.]
On the heels of the auto bailouts costing taxpayers billions, while a strike at U.S. auto plants in 2015 is not a certainty, the union’s hiking of dues in anticipation of a strike does not lend any credibility to the “new image” the UAW is trying to assert, making UAW boss Bob King’s “business partner” concept more rhetoric than reality.
If so, it wouldn’t be the first time.
In the 1970s, like today, Volkswagen had a plant in the U.S.—only then, the plant was in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.
Like today, the United Auto Workers received help from the German union IG Metall and unionized the Pennsylvania plant’s workers. That didn’t last long, however.
Due to flagging demand and an adversarial relationship with the UAW, VW closed that plant, exiting manufacturing in the U.S. for nearly three decades.
…Several unauthorized walk-outs by workers in the plant’s first two years left a bitter taste with some managers. One former VW executive said if he could do it all over again, he would have urged the company to open a non-union plant in the South.
‘NO MONEY, NO BUNNY’
In one of the early walk-outs, workers chanted “No Money, No Bunny,” referring to their refusal to build the VW Rabbit unless they were paid wages and benefits equal to those of UAW workers at the Detroit automakers. Other walk-outs took aim at what workers saw as unfair dismissals or treatment. [Emphasis added.]
Now, as VW has opened a non-union plant in the South, people may begin to wonder if Chattanooga won’t turn into another Detroit if it becomes unionized—VW’s experience with the UAW in Pennsylvania won’t repeat itself in Tennessee.
At its peak, Volkswagen’s Westmoreland plant had over 6,000 employees. It was organized by the UAW, true to form, work started with a strike. Ten years later, Volkswagen closed the plant, production moved to Mexico. Today the entire population of New Stanton, Pa., is 1,906. The plant is still empty.
Closing the plant did cost many lives. Reuters talked to Ron Dinsmore, a former VW worker. He “kept a grisly toll of the pain: the number of suicides of former workers. He stopped counting at 19. ‘I used to go to every funeral home,’ said Dinsmore, 71. ‘I quit doing it. It got morbid.’
Perhaps Steve Moore’s cancer comparison isn’t too far fetched after all.
For related articles on the UAW’s attempt to unionize Volkswagen, go here.