VW did not have a works council in its only U.S. plant, located in Chattanooga, Tenn.
For years, the United Auto Workers (U.A.W.) has been trying to organize workers at a foreign-owned U.S. auto plant. Strong unions at VW in Germany urged the company to support a vote at the U.S. plant. The U.A.W. tried to get the workers at VW’s factory to vote them in as their union. The workers voted against the U.A.W. It was seen as a big defeat for labor.
There are many foreign auto companies with factories in the U.S. The unions do not represent workers at these modern plants.
A works council brings the U.A.W. and other employee groups into the mix at the VW factory. No single union now represents the workers. The U.A.W. hopes 50 percent of the workers will ask to join the U.A.W. VW said it would recognize the union.
This could be a big change in the fortunes of trade unions.
The U.A.W. was once a mighty union. It lost most of its membership in the recession of 2007. The auto companies took a big hit. General Motors and Chrysler had to be rescued by the federal government.
Over the years, critics have said that the union overplayed its hand. American wages, fringe benefits and pensions were very good. Workers enjoyed a middle-class way of life. Then times got bad. The workers lost jobs and benefits.
The U.S. economic recovery has been slow. More workers are in part-time jobs than ever before, usually with no benefits.
Ideally, unions will play a role in improving the lives of workers.
Source: The New York Times November 12, 2014