If there’s ever a perfect example of human behavior matching Pavlov’s dog, simply mention the word “union” in a room full of conservatives. I have laughed all evening at comments on different web outlets on the story about Volkswagen entertaining the idea of adopting the German policy of having a work council operating in its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. As it currently stands, the U.S. plant is the only one of VW’s plants that do not have a works council operating, and that’s because of the way U.S. labor law is written.
From Reuters on September 3rd:
Union officials in Germany who wished to remain anonymous said on Tuesday that the 2,500 Volkswagen workers at the Chattanooga plant may be briefed as soon as this week on efforts to bring the matter to a vote and on the UAW’s willingness to back that vote.
At VW plants, workers are represented by so-called works councils, which include laborers as well as executives who cooperate to determine issues ranging from company strategy to job conditions. They do not negotiate wages or benefits.
“If Bob King can get his foot in the door at Chattanooga, even if it’s just a works council, it’s pretty significant,” said a former auto executive at a foreign automaker with U.S. plants, who wished to remain anonymous.
If you don’t know the difference between a works council and a union, there is one huge glaring difference that I have yet to see a single commenter online acknowledge. A union, depending on the situation and industry, negotiates everything to include wages, benefits, workplace conditions, and so on. In Germany, a works council does not negotiate wages or benefits. For a primer on Germany’s works councils, follow this link here for detailed information. For the link challenged, here are a few bullet points outlined on that site.
First and main commission of the works council is advancing and securing employment of the employees. Connected tasks and rights are covering:
- Design of workplace environment and working processes
- Personnel matters as cancellation, hiring, restructuring and transfers
- Economical matters as e.g. making a social programme
- Controlling the compliance with law, regulations, collective agreements, company agreements, accient[sic] prevention, environment protection etc.
- Support and advancement of senior employees, disabled employees and foreign employees
- Equal treatment of men and women
- Codetermination on issues that are not regulated by law or collective agreements. Examples are regulations on working hours, remuneration, vacation, introducing surveillance devices for controlling the employees, suggestion scheme
Needless to say, the conservatives in government positions in Chattanooga city government and Tennessee state government have already voiced their displeasure in knee jerk reaction if for no other reason than the UAW is involved in this. However, if you look at the work culture of Germany when compared to the U.S., you begin to see a bit deeper as to why some people here don’t like the idea.
German company leaders actually get along with their workers and treat them with respect. Instead of treating them as nothing more than a number on the P&L sheet, the management teams in German companies actually try to forge a positive work environment while including workers in on the decisions being made. Workers in Germany actually have representation on boards, unlike in the U.S. where everything is all about the shareholder.
In the U.S., workers are supposed to be grateful just for having a job, regardless to how little they make or how little input they have in their working conditions. Here, we’re not supposed to speak up on anything and simply thank our corporate overlords for trickling on us. If we’re supposed to be able to take care of our families by working, then we should get two jobs if one doesn’t pay you enough to take care of your family. Who cares if you’re never home to raise your children?
Given recent news in different industries, I won’t be even remotely surprised if our economy hasn’t gone the way of the dodo bird by the year 2025. We used to be the world’s manufacturers and supplied everything to almost everyone. Now, we’re basically service workers being led by gambling money changers who don’t care about anything outside of their pockets and/or wallets. That’s what we get for allowing ourselves to be taken over by the MBA mindset, profits over everything else.
- VW official: Chattanooga works council should come by ‘formal vote’ (timesfreepress.com)
- Bob Corker: Volkswagen would become a ‘laughingstock’ for partnering with UAW (timesfreepress.com)
- UAW may establish ‘works council’ in Chattanooga to bypass union objections (watchdog.org)
- Gov. Haslam: UAW’s Chattanooga efforts hurt business recruitment (timesfreepress.com)
- Volkswagen, UAW Consider German-Style Work Councils for US Plant (lawprofessors.typepad.com)