Created Equal: Will the UAW break the southern anti-union stronghold?

Auto workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. are amid a vote that would make it one of only a few unionized members in the American south.  

FILE - United Auto Workers members walk in the Labor Day parade in Detroit, Sept. 2, 2019.

FILE - United Auto Workers members walk in the Labor Day parade in Detroit, Sept. 2, 2019.

The United Auto Workers union is close to organizing workers in Volkswagen’s auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Voting began on Wednesday, April 17, and will end Friday, April 19 for 4,300 workers. If they vote to organize, the UAW will have made a significant step forward by unionizing workers in the south — something they’ve failed to accomplish twice before.

Southern states typically have ‘right-to-work” laws on the books, which makes it harder for unions to recruit members. Several southern governors have spoken out in opposition to the move. They argue that unionizing could put their jobs at risk.  

Senior fellow at The Century Foundation Steven Greenhouse and Automotive News reporter Michael Martinez joined Stephen Henderson on Created Equal on Thursday to discuss what the autoworkers will likely do.  

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Steven Greenhouse is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. He says when he covered the vote to unionize at the Volkswagen plant in 2014, organizing was seen as politically advantageous for democrats.

“Republican governors don’t want unions because they see that unions push for a greater social safety net,” Greenhouse said. 

Michael Martinez is a reporter covering Ford and the UAW for Automotive News and The Daily Drive podcast. He says Tennessee workers took the initiative and reached out to union members in Michigan after they successfully negotiated contracts.

“…from the beginning this was worker led and that’s why they are confident that it will be different from 2019 and different from 2014,” Martinez said.

Listen to Created Equal with host Stephen Henderson weekdays from 9-10 a.m. ET on 101.9 WDET and streaming on-demand.

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