Many of you know, I grew up in the hills of Northwest Georgia where about 85% of the nation’s carpet is manufactured. To put it mildly, it is a non-union area. Thirty miles North lies Chattanooga, which was once a highly unionized town before it lost its foundries and thousands of high paying skilled blue-collar jobs. Of course, Chattanooga is now a success story, having recreated itself as a delightful tourist destination, among other nice qualities.
More recently, Chattanooga and its environs has done a virtuoso job of turning the former ammunition plant area near lake Chickamauga into the new VW plant site, as well as luring automotive suppliers and huge Amazon distribution centers to the Chattanooga – Cleveland area. Non union operations, if I recall correctly.
I’m a management labor lawyer, so my philosophy is probably obvious. I prefer settings where management and employees deal directly with one another. I hold management accountable to treat their employees in a way that makes employees feel that they do not need a “third-party” between them and management. That’s one of many reasons that I so hammer on the importance of a “safety culture” and an engaged workforce. Where I find a manufacturer or contractor with a really superior safety culture and equally engaged management and employees, I find efficient production processes, good returns, and few employment law and labor problems.
All businesses occasionally make mistakes, screw up communications and made mistakes that disgruntled employees or a third-party can use to drive a wedge between employees and management, but I believe that most employers inadvertently bring a union on themselves … at least in the South. I know that’s a harsh observation, but I’d be willing to defend it. Read my posts on my dad’s approach to business, employee engagement, and other topics. I don’t focus on “union bashing.” I focus on developing employer processes that promote safety, employee engagement, good communications, and fair treatment. And yes, many of my unionized clients also focus on those values, especially in construction. As busy as we all remain, these “values” won’t occur without specific detailed efforts.
So I was intrigued when I read the following article from my home town area….
Bill Haslam wary of VW union impact on other industries
NASHVILLE, Jun 26, 2013 (Chattanooga Times Free Press – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that the possibility of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant becoming unionized is coming up as a topic of concern among other industries the state is trying to recruit to Tennessee.
The Republican governor, who opposes the United Auto Workers’ unionization efforts, said he has “heard that from some of the other people considering Tennessee that that would be a negative in their mind if that happened in Chattanooga.”
“So,” Haslam continued, “we’ve communicated that to Volkswagen. Ultimately, like I said, we want to see them [Volkswagen] grow here.”
Meanwhile, an international labor expert said that German labor leaders backing the organizing effort in Chattanooga could influence whether a potential new model is produced in Tennessee or Mexico.
Lowell Turner, a Cornell University international and comparative labor professor, said he interpreted a statement last week by a top leader in VW’s global works council to mean that “We’d like to see representation [in Chattanooga] and for it to happen before we look at expansion there.”
“If we can expand somewhere else with a more friendly environment, why expand in a place that’s hostile to unions and worker representation,” Turner said he thought was the message. (CONTINUE READING) (Thanks to Walter Orechwa for posting the article).