This In These Times piece on the UAW vote in Tennessee by Mike Elk is getting a lot of attention.
Here’s the short story:
Workers and organizers cite outside interference, management collusion, union missteps, two-tier agreements and Neil Young
It’s very good work. Elk was there and he’s a labor writer who understands the issues, but the part of the piece that is getting the most attention is where he analyzes the union’s role- what they could have done differently. The piece is quite tough on the UAW:
Criticisms of the UAW
The No 2 UAW campaign used the very neutrality agreement that the UAW signed to argue that the union was making corrupt deals with management without worker input.
“We got people to realize they had already negotiated a deal behind their backs—[workers] didn’t get to have a say-so,” hourly plant worker Mike Jarvis of No 2 UAW told reporters outside of the plant last night.
“What the UAW is offering, we can already do without them,” says hourly worker Mike Burton, who created the website for the No 2 UAW campaign. “We were only given one choice [of a union]. When you are only given one choice, it’s BS. It would be nice if we had a union that came in here and forthright said, “Here is what we can offer.”
“I am not anti-union, I am anti-UAW,” Burton continues. “There are great unions out there, and we just weren’t offered any of them.”
Some labor observers have questioned whether provisions in the neutrality agreement may have also hampered the UAW’s ability to make its case. “Though neutrality agreements often help avoid vociferous employer opposition, unions also have to give up powerful organizing or negotiating tools,” says Moshe Marvit, a labor lawyer and fellow at the Century Foundation.
Also, pro-union community activists, who spoke with In These Times on condition of anonymity out of fear of hurting their relationships with the UAW, spoke about difficulties in getting the UAW to help them engage the broader Chattanooga community. Many activists I spoke with during my two trips to Chattanooga said that when they saw the UAW being continually blasted on local talk radio, newspapers and billboards, they wanted to get involved to help build community support.
However, they say that the UAW was lukewarm in partnering with them.
“There’s no way to win in the South without everyone that supports you fighting with you,” said one Chattanooga community organizer, who preferred to remain anonymous. “Because the South is one giant anti-union campaign.”
It’s probably really worthwhile to look at the UAW’s role in the loss if for no other reason than because the union’s actions are the only part of this that labor and labor supporters have any control over.
Elk concludes with this:
Still, at the end of the day, unions make missteps in union elections all the time and often face opposition from management, and the workers still sometimes win. Indeed, the NLRB reports that unions won 60 percent of elections conducted in fiscal year 2013.
To find out what the “Neil Young Factor” is all about, you’ll have to go over and read the piece.