Tonight, the Chattanooga Volkswagen workers will vote on whether to join UAW. Millions of dollars have been spent trying to stop this election.

Stand in solidarity with these workers as they vote UNION YES!

Mitt Romney Charged With Violating Federal Ethics Law

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As of November 1, Mitt Romney is one of the first presidential candidates ever to be charged with violating federal ethics law.

United Automobile Workers (UAW) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have just charged Romney with hiding between 15.3 to 111.5 million dollarsfrom the auto industry bailout in his wife Anne’s “blind” trust to conceal the gain and reduce taxes on it.

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WATCH: Leaked Documents Show GOP Governor Illegally Interfered With Volkswagen Union Vote

WATCH: Leaked Documents Show GOP Governor Illegally Interfered With Volkswagen Union Vote

Documents leaked to a TN news station suggest Haslam officials ran a ‘coordinated anti-union campaign’ called Project Trinity over the UAW Volkswagen vote. – Photo (with workers gathered while the plant was being built) from VW Group America.

Documents leaked to News Channel 5  in Nashville, TN, show that GOP governor Bill Haslam and others in his administration used taxpayer money in an attempt…

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Chrysler, UAW reach tentative labor pact


The agreement follows agreements between the UAW and Chrysler’s Detroit rivals General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.The GM contract was ratified by workers late last month and Ford workers are in the process of voting that ends October 18.In a press statement, UAW President Bob King said the pact will create 2,100 U.S. jobs and commit Chrysler to $4.5 billion investment in vehicle production.Further details of the agreement will be issued later on Wednesday by the UAW. The Chrysler contract was not expected by labor analysts to be as generous for workers as those at GM and Ford, due to the automaker’s relative poor financial position.Chrysler Group is managed and majority=owned by Italy’s Fiat SpA.


These [labor] standards did not just happen. They happened because generations of working people fought for, and in some cases died for, the right to organize and the right to collectively bargain. […] These rights are good for all Americans. Strong unions and collective bargaining have lifted millions of people out of poverty and built the great American middle class and it’sa middle class that keeps America’s democracy and economy strong.
—  UAW President Bob King, speaking at the Democratic National Convention.

Opinion: Nice unions finish last

The news out of Tennessee delivered a punch in the gut to an already beleaguered labor movement on Feb. 14: workers at a Chattanooga Volkswagen auto plant voted 712 to 626 against joining the United Auto Workers, all but extinguishing hopes for establishing a union beachhead in a rabidly anti-labor South. The region has bedeviled the labor movement ever since “Operation Dixie,” the Congress of Industrial Organization’s failed attempt in the 1940s to organize the South. In Tennessee, the current union membership rate of 6.1 percent is less than half the national average.

This campaign was unusual in many ways. The employer, Volkswagen, was neutral, even supportive of the drive — a rarity in a country where corporations spend billions every year to crush nascent organizing efforts — while Republican politicians, including Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.Tennessee state legislators and right-wing groups like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform openly and vehemently opposed the union. Corker stated that VW would build a new midsize SUV in the factory if workers refused the union (a claim VW later denied); state representatives threatened to pull Volkswagen’s tax breaks if workers unionized; and Norquist’s organization lined the streets of Chattanooga with billboards claiming that a UAW vote would turn the city into a ravaged post-industrial wasteland. Workers were spooked by these efforts, and understandably so, with the very real possibility of the company shuttering the plant and shipping auto jobs overseas looming large in workers’ minds.

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(Photo: Erik Schelzig/AP)

After Volkswagen issued a letter in September saying the company would not oppose an attempt by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize its 1,600-worker Chattanooga, Tenn., facility, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was flabbergasted.

“For management to invite the UAW in is almost beyond belief,” Corker, who campaigned heavily for the plant’s construction during his tenure as mayor of Chattanooga, told the Associated Press. “They will become the object of many business school studies — and I’m a little worried could become a laughingstock in many ways — if they inflict this wound.”

Corker isn’t the only right-winger out to halt UAW’s campaign. In the absence of any overt anti-union offensive by Volkswagen, conservative political operatives worried about the UAW getting a foothold in the South have stepped into the fray.

Leaked documents obtained by In These Times, as well as interviews with a veteran anti-union consultant, indicate that a conservative group, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, appears to be pumping hundred of thousands of dollars into media and grassroots organizing in an effort to stop the union drive. In addition, the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation helped four anti-union workers in October file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Volkswagen was forcing a union on them.

“Everyone is definitely looking at this fight,” the anti-union consultant, Martin (not his real name), told In These Times. “This is the union fight going on right now and everybody [in the anti-union world] is looking to play their part and get compensated for playing their part.”

The last VW plant where workers don’t have a voice

As the only major VW plant in the United States, Chattanooga is also the only plant whose workers have no opportunity to join German-style “works councils” — committees of hourly and salaried employees who discuss management decisions, like which plant will make specific car models, on a local and global scale.

Organizing with the UAW, workers say, would help them to both form new works councils and gain representation at existing ones — which, in turn, would attract more jobs to the area.

“I personally feel like not having a union and not participating in a works council is going to do more damage for future expansion and new product development in Chattanooga than any unionization would do,” says Volkswagen employee Justin King. “The way VW works on the international level, [management] almost expects to work with a union. Now, we aren’t able to say, ‘Hey we would like to build that new SUV, or we would like to hire some new workers.’ We are only hurting ourselves by not going union.”

Workers also say having a union would help the plant be more efficient. “On the assembly line, the process changes each year because [of] new models,” says worker Chris Brown. “A voice in the company would help smooth the process from year to year.”

Beyond this, VW employees feel that organizing could help address their problems with corporate policy, including the fact that nearly one-fifth of workers at peak times in auto production have been temporary employees. Temporary employees’ starting wages are more than two dollars an hour lower than full-time employees’, and their healthcare and retirement benefits are much less robust, says the UAW.

According to Brown, approximately 200-300 “temps” are currently employed in the VW factory — and the UAW says they can remain classified as temporary even if they work at VW for years.

“I am friends with these people, and they want a job. Some of these people have been there for 18 months as a temp and that’s just … wrong,” says Brown. “If this is a job that I do, they should be making the pay that I make. [They] should have the same job security that I have as an employee.”

Fellow employee Lauren Feinauer agrees that a union would improve workers’ communication with management. “We heard a lot in the beginning about how VW works with their employees: close relationships and a lot of communication. I know there is a lot of that going on, but I think some of the VW way got lost in translation,” she says. “This is why we want a union.”

This September, the UAW announced that a majority of VW workers have signed up to join the union. But according to the UAW, it and VW still have yet to agree on a process for recognizing the union. That has left time for outside anti-union forces to try to dissuade workers from joining the UAW — time that many of those groups have capitalized upon.

Anti-union consultants get in the game

In a proposal dated Aug. 23, 2013, which was presented to a prominent anti-union group before being leaked to In These Times, Washington, DC-based consultant Matt Patterson outlined a vision of how anti-union forces can work with community groups to persuade VW workers that organizing is not in their long-term economic interest.

In the report, Patterson explained his approach thus far to laying the groundwork for an anti-union campaign, which he calls the “Keep Tennessee Free Project,” in Chattanooga. From last May to August, he said, he “leveraged a $4,000 budget into a deep and effective anti-UAW campaign that received national media attention, pressured politicians to issue public statements against unionization, forced the union to expend resources to counter our efforts, developed an extensive intelligence network that stretched from Chattanooga to Germany to Detroit and brought the terrible economic legacy of the UAW to the forefront of the debate.”

Patterson claimed that during the summer, he generated 63 stories denouncing the UAW effort in Chattanooga. In three months, he said, he was able to build a media echo chamber that now hammers Chattanooga with anti-union messaging on a regular basis.

And such remarks aren’t idle boasting. The fruits of Patterson’s anti-organizing crusade have appeared in the National ReviewForbes and local Chattanooga TV station WDEF 12, in addition to a host of smaller conservative talk radio shows.

But he didn’t stop there — he also gathered grassroots support. “Within a few weeks,” he wrote, “I had organized a coalition consisting of members of the Tea Party, Students for Liberty, former VW employees, politician and businessmen to craft and deliver a consistent message that has shaped public opinion.”

H/T: BillMoyers.com

Why a Foreign Car Maker Might Be About to Say Yes to a U.S. Union

Lately, the only battles labor unions have seemed capable of winning in the private sector have been PR battles. McDonald’s workers go on strike for a day to raise awareness about low wages? That counts as progress. A few Walmart workers walk out in protest on Black Friday, only to be casually ignored by the hoards of shoppers racing for waffle irons? Well, at least they nabbed a few headlines. 

However, something a bit different, a bit more tangibly significant, appears to going on in the auto industry right now.

The United Auto Workers may well be on the verge of accomplishing a longstanding and elusive goal: organizing a foreign car maker on American soil. This week, its leaders reported that more than half the workers at Volkswagen’s manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee had signed cards favoring union representation. As a next step, Volkswagen could simply choose to recognize the UAW without a fight, or it could force a certification election through the National Labor Relations Board. Negotiations between the two sides are ongoing, but the union seems to have at least some momentum.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Ford UAW contract ratification gains momentum


* GM workers have already ratified their contractDETROIT, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers leadership pushing for ratification of a new four-year labor contract with Ford Motor Co made fresh gains on Saturday with nearly half of the worker vote counted, a union online update showed.The running tally as of Saturday morning showed 56 percent of workers had cast votes in favor of the new contract which would give most workers a signing bonus of $6,000, and at least $16,000 in bonuses over the life of the pact.That is up from 54 percent in approval on Friday night and 51 percent in favor on Friday morning.There are about 41,000 unionized Ford workers. The vote continues at Ford’s U.S. plants through Tuesday.As of Saturday morning with 44 percent of the expected overall vote counted, there were 8,577 “yes” votes and 6,710 “no” votes, according to posting by the United Auto Workers Ford Department.General Motors Co’s 48,500 union workers, who have approved their contract already, get $11,500 at a minimum in bonuses, including a $5,000 signing bonus.At Chrysler Group LLC , the weakest of the Detroit Three automakers, guaranteed bonus payout is $5,750, including a signing bonus of $1,750.Chrysler’s 26,000 unionized workers will vote over the next two weeks on a tentative contract agreement reached by negotiators on Wednesday.Veteran Ford auto plant workers make $28.12 per hour, and will see no increase in base pay. They have not received a base pay raise since 2003. Skilled trades workers make several dollars per hour more.Wages for new hires that currently are about $15.50 per hour at Ford would rise to $19.28 per hour over the life of the contract.


This story has been updated, see bottom of story for details.  After negotiations went sour between Tennessee’s Gov. Haslam and Volkswagen, Volkswagen warned they had other offers in alternative sites outside of Tennessee.  

New documents reveal that Volkswagen had accepted Gov. Haslam’s $300 million offer of taxpayer dollars to help the company expand production in Chattanooga.  That offer was

revoked by Governor Haslam, after he learned UAW would be part of Volkswagen in Chattanooga.  

From News Channel 5 in Nashville:

emails leaked to NewsChannel 5 Investigates — emails that the state had refused to release — show Volkswagen lawyers had actually drawn up papers for a potential deal to bring more than a thousand new jobs to Tennessee, but it was the Haslam administration who pulled the plug on the incentives it had offered in August 2013.

"A number of circumstances have changed or occurred since we delivered the August 23rd materials," Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty emailed a top Volkswagen executive on Jan. 31. "The August 2013 incentive summary does not account for these changes and is no longer relevant."

Haslam administration claims there was a 90 day limit on the offer, but the day the State received the letter from Volkswagen in January, they sent out a MOU ( Memorandum of Understanding) in order to close the deal.  

Democratic State Rep. Mike Stewart told News 5:

"As far as the emails that I’m looking at today, they just confirm what I think everybody already knew — which is, these jobs, this package was pulled for reasons that have nothing to do with any deadline," said state Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, after reviewing the documents

To watch the video, go to this News 5: Leaked Emails Raise Questions About Governors $300 Million Offer

Commissioner Hagerty had first claimed, in an interview with the Associated Press, that it was a “90-day incentives offer” that had simply expired.

His spokesperson later told other media that the 90-day incentive package expired on Jan. 31.

Then, after NewsChannel 5 uncovered the August proposal, the spokesperson said the Haslam administration had actually “kept its incentive offer on the table for almost two months longer” than the 90 days.

"I would love to know if there is a single person outside the administration — Democrat or Republican — who believes in any such 90-day deadline?" Rep. Stewart asked.

In fact, Hagerty made no mention of such a 90-day deadline in his email to Volkswagen executive Christof Spathelf.  

So the deadline is a lame excuse and is not believable.  What changed to make the Haslam administration do something so drastic as to lose 1000 new jobs for Tennesseans?  

Rep. Stewart said, “The only circumstance that had changed was the Volkswagen — which is part of its business policy — said it would cooperate with the workers in the plant.”

In fact, that email came just four days after Volkswagen signed a friendly agreement with the UAW, calling for a union election. And it came the same day that an anti-union group out of Washington was protesting Volkswagen not letting opponents inside the plant to voice their objections.

An investigation is needed.  Throughout this Chattanooga deal we’ve heard:

1)  Sen. Corker promise that if there was no UAW in Chattanooga, Volkswagen would expand the plant for a new SUV within 2 weeks. That has not happened.

2)  Volkswagen’s President said that Corker’s claims were not true.   Corker then said he had it on higher authority it was true.  Still no SUV in Chattanooga.  

3)  Gov.  Haslam tied taxpayer money to a deal contingent on his ideologies; instead, of the best interest of Tennesseans.  

4)  Gov. Haslam’s office lied about reasons the deal with VW did not happen.

Finally, if anyone knows how I can embed this as a video, please help me.  I’ll remove this statement, when I get the video to work.   NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather

9:02 AM PT: Just in:  http://www.tennessean.com/…

Volkswagen warned Tennessee officials during difficult negotiations over incentives to expand the German automaker’s lone U.S. plant that the company has already secured offers to build a new SUV elsewhere.

Volkswagen attorney Alex Leath said in a Jan. 27 email to the state Department of Economic and Community Development that the Volkswagen board would be presented options to build the new vehicle at the Chattanooga plant and or “alternative sites outside of Tennessee.”

h/t: Sandy On Signal at Daily Kos Labor

Today in history: On Feb. 27, 1937, an organizer from the Waiters and Waitresses Union stood among the bustling Saturday afternoon crowd in a Woolworth’s Five-and-Dime store in Detroit. At 11 a.m. he yelled out, “Strike, girls! Strike!” Thus began the Woolworth’s sit-down strike.

Nearly 85% of the workers were women under 26. They were going up against the largest retail giant in the country – the Wal-Mart of the early 20th century. Starting just days after the autoworkers’ sit-down strike at GM ended in victory, more than 100 women workers at one of 40 Woolworth stores in Detroit, MI, begin their strike over wages, hours, working conditions, and union recognition. Solidarity action in support of the workers grew, the strike spread, and on March 5 the workers won their demands, including the union shop. The union won a uniform contract for all 40 stores in Detroit, which covered 2,500 workers.

Via Freedom Road Socialist Organization

Ford UAW contract gains support in ongoing vote


The running tally as of Friday morning was 7,529 “yes” votes and 6,385 “no” votes, according to posting by the United Auto Workers Ford Department. That is about 54 percent for and 46 percent against.Two new plant votes, including an 87-percent vote from the Twin Cities plant in St. Paul, Minnesota and 77-percent in favor from the Livonia Transmission plant near Detroit, pushed the “yes” votes up from 51 percent reported earlier on Friday.There are about 1,000 workers at the Livonia plant and about 700 at the St. Paul plant.Ford local unions vote through next Tuesday on the tentative pact, with the total vote result to be issued on Wednesday.The vote will affect about 41,000 UAW-represented Ford workers.The next big union local to report results will be UAW Local 600, the biggest Ford local, which will report results on Sunday. Local 600 represents a handful of plants near Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, including “The Rouge,” a sprawling factory built by company founder Henry Ford.UAW President Bob King said on Wednesday he was confident the pact would be ratified and that the weakening economy would undercut the union’s position if the two sides were forced back into bargaining.A Ford plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, voted 72 percent to approve the proposed pact, a union official said on Friday. That plant has been promised some of the production of the Ford Fusion sedan in a shift of work from Mexico. About 1,500 workers voted at the local representing the Flat Rock plant.Bringing back work from Mexico has been a selling point by King and UAW officials since Ford and the union reached a tentative agreement on October 4.UAW Local 1250 which represents two Ford engine plants in Cleveland where 1,032 workers voted, supported the contract by 53 percent to 47 percent.The proposed UAW contract at Ford is the richest of the deals offered to workers at the Detroit automakers. In one of the key differences, Ford workers would receive a signing bonus of $6,000 each, compared with just $5,000 for workers at General Motors Co and $1,750 at Chrysler Group LLC.Over the term of the contract, Ford workers are guaranteed at least $16,000 in bonuses. GM’s 48,500 union workers would get $11,500 at a minimum. At Chrysler, the weakest of the Detroit Three, guaranteed payout is just $5,750.Chrysler’s 26,000 unionized workers will vote over the next two weeks on a tentative contract agreement reached by negotiators on Wednesday.The Twin Cities plant, which once made the Model T, is scheduled to close in December. Many of its members voted in favor because the new contract promises production work at plants where the UAW workers can transfer, a union local official said.


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Today in Fox News contributors getting beat up on camera: Steven Crowder, described on his Web site as “Fox News’ brightest, funniest young Conservative mind,” found himself in the middle of a crowd full of union folks (understandably upset over the passage of the Right to Work law in Michigan earlier today) who were in the midst of tearing down a tent put up by Americans for Prosperity. Crowder was there asking questions conservative in tone. There appears to be some tight edits in the clip, so we don’t know exactly what provoked it, but this much is clear: A union guy who had enough of Crowder’s you-know-what started punching him in the head.

EDIT: The raw video, which actually aired on Fox News, appears to show an interesting detail.

The United Auto Workers (UAW), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and other groups plan to file an ethics complaint against Mitt Romney for allegedly failing to disclose his profits from the auto bailout, the UAW has told The Huffington Post.

The groups are calling for an investigation by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to investigate Romney’s alleged violation of the Ethics in Government Act, which requires presidential candidates to disclose their personal finances. The ethics complaint comes on the heels of an Oct. 17 article in The Nation, which alleged that Romney has hidden his personal gains of at least $15.3 million from the auto bailout.

"He made his fortune off the misfortune of others," Bob King, president of the UAW, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. "Why should we have to find out from the media about this?"

The Romney campaign could not be immediately reached for comment.

The allegations are ironic given that Romney has been a staunch critic of the auto bailout. Romney called for the government to let the auto industry go bankrupt in an op-ed in The New York Times in 2008. The Romney campaign also released a misleading ad in October that claims Chrysler has moved all production of Jeeps to China following the auto bailout.

Romney and his wife allegedly made millions from the auto bailout through their investments in the hedge fund Elliott Management, which held a stake in the auto bailout recipient Delphi Automotive, according to The Nation. 

H/T: Huffington Post

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