In September, the majority of workers at a Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., signed cards authorizing their affiliation with the UAW and the creation of a German-style "works council" at the plant.
While the VW workers, like a growing number of workers in the South, are looking to win a union voice to improve their lives, many Tennessee lawmakers, like many other politicians and their corporate allies in the South, have mounted an attack against the workers’ efforts to collectively bargain.
But Daniel Cornfield, a professor of sociology and political science at Vanderbilt University, says those speaking out against the workers and the UAW need to take a look at the positive economic impact unionized workers and the companies they work at have on Tennessee.
In a column in The Tennessean, Cornfield writes:
By choosing to affiliate with the United Automobile Workers union, Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga would join one of the boldest initiatives in labor-management cooperation in the United States. They would join the ranks of those Tennesseans who also work in prestigious, unionized major corporations that drive the Tennessee economy and provide thousands of Tennesseans with decent jobs.
He points to the positive economic impact corporations such as AT&T, Bridgestone, CSX, Ford Motor Co., General Motors and many others with unionized workers at their Tennessee operations have on the state’s economy. Cornfield says:
Tennessee’s elected public officials should acknowledge the positive economic impact of unionized corporations on the prestige and growth of the state economy, and the thousands of decent jobs they have created in Tennessee. They should refrain from making dismissive comments about a business practice—collective bargaining—that has generated economic uplift and prosperity in our state.