(Article changed on February 21, 2014 at 10:20)
(Article changed on February 21, 2014 at 10:15)
A political and economic scandal in Tennessee is mushrooming to the point where either the Republican U.S. Senator who started it, or else the labor union that has suffered defeat from it, may yet rue the day, but in an extraordinary way. A normal U.S. labor-management conflict this certainly was not:
Tennessee's U.S. Senator Bob Corker is, of course, supposed to represent the people of that state (or at least the conservatives who elected him), but he here chose instead to lie to them, and to tell them that if they let a union into the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, a VW executive had told him that VW might not expand manufacturing there. However, on Wednesday, February 19th, Reuters in Berlin reported that the reality had been exactly the opposite: "Volkswagen's top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers [there] are not unionized." This statement, from an actual VW executive ( a member of VW's Supervisory Board in Germany ), contradicted what the Republican Senator had said.
Corker had said, on February 12th , "I've had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga." Because of this implication that a VW executive -- that is, someone in authority to speak for the company in this regard -- had threatened to avoid expanding its Tennessee operation if the workers there voted for a union, the workers voted 712 to 626 against a union , on February 14th. Senator Corker, upon hearing this news, exulted, "Needless to say, I am thrilled."
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal headlined, on February 15th -- the day after the election -- "Corker's Campaign Behind Union Rejection" -- and failed to cite his crucial lie, which had largely caused the vote-down, but merely noted that the union had complained "that Mr. Corker said, just as the unionization vote began this week, that he felt 'assured' that Volkswagen would produce a new midsize SUV in Chattanooga if workers rejected the union." Of course, the workers weren't nearly so much interested in his feeling anything, "assured" or otherwise, as much as they were interested in knowing their employer's actual intention, which, in Corker's remark, was indicated to be represented, by his saying, "I've had conversations today and based on those ..." Corker's inference that he had gotten this supposed (but actually non-existent, purely fabricated) information, from a VW official, wasn't even suggested in that Murdoch newspaper. In other words, the WSJ deceived their own readers, by burying and carefully minimizing the Republican's actual lie, which had very likely won the day for the Republican Party, in this important union matter.
So, now, the deceived 712 Chattanooga VW workers will not only have foregone their own representation, and thus increased their likelihood of worsened working conditions and pay, but they have lessened their opportunities for further personal advancement, as compared to the situation if they hadn't been suckered by this lie from the U.S. Senator that most of them had voted into office.
This is an extreme example of the Republican Party's successfully deceiving working-class voters into participating in their own peonage to America's aristocracy, who own the corporations that pour billions of dollars into Republican election coffers to carry out this deception of the non-elite. As the victorious Republican WSJ itself noted, "It is the story of the challenge of organizing in the South, where you have a deeply rooted antiunion culture that is difficult for workers to overcome,' said Lance Compa, a Cornell University labor relations professor who spent several years organizing workers in Virginia and North Carolina."
The surprise in this case is that, this time around, the corporation that was supposed to want this deception of workers by the Republican Party, was actually speaking up against it, in the interests of the entire company, including its own workers.
In Germany, there is a system called "co-determination," in which the corporation's executives and workers function together in a "works council," so as to advance the entire society's interests, and not just those of the corporation's stockholders.
The VW executive said "The conservatives stirred up massive, anti-union sentiments." He was blaming not merely Senator Corker, but the entire Republican Party in the U.S., and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that backed it. As the Republican WSJ itself noted about this union-defeat, "It potentially represented something larger: another high-profile victory for the GOP and its effort to curtail union activity."
VW had even invited the United Auto Workers to organize the plant and hold this election, and did nothing whatsoever to prevent it; but obviously they also did not want to offend the Republican politicians who control Tennessee; this is thus the first time that the company has said anything publicly indicating that they had hoped actually that the union would win that election.
The United Auto Workers is considering whether to sue Senator Corker for his fraud, but a likelier outcome will be that enough of his suckers will recognize that they had been his fools and will respond by switching parties, so that Corker might not remain a Tennessee U.S. Senator much longer. His present term lasts through 2017; however, his fellow-Republican Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is up for re-election this year, and is running against Democrat Terry Adams, during the year when anti-incumbent sentiment is at its highest pitch; so, this defeat for the United Auto Workers could, and possibly even soon, turn out to be a victory for the Democratic Party, and maybe even break the Republican stranglehold on the former slave states. Repercussions could be vast from it.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010 , and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity .