VW Threatening to Close Chattanooga Plant if UAW Wins – Facebook Helping to Bust Union – Tenn Gov Could Drop a Bomb


Greetings from the Burgh, where we present a special Chattanooga focused Payday Report. This week, we’ve been out gathering sources for two longer stories that we are going to release early next week. However, for now, let’s give you an update on what’s going on.

Payday Has Raised $1,788 to Cover Chattanooga Union Vote at Volkswagen.

This week, Payday raised the $1,300 that it will cost us in logistics alone to cover the union vote in Chattanooga. Now, we hope to raise another $1,500 to cover the costs of wages fully.

The Washington Post cited Payday work on the lead unionbuster in Chattanooga, Rick Berman.  Tennesse’s USA Today Network Newspapers, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, and the Tennessean (the three largest newspapers in the state), also cited Payday’s work in an article on the UAW-VW election in Chattanooga.  

This week, we’ve raised $1,788 and are hoping to raise to $3,000 to cover all the work that will go into the writing. Donate today

Workers are getting hammered in the press down in Chattanooga, and we want to be there to tell the whole story.

Facebook Data Mining Assisting Unionbusters Taking on UAW

In the run-up to the union election, groups like Center for Union Facts are using Facebook data mining tools to cheaply and directly target Volkswagen workers on the fence about voting for the union.

The ads are specifically targetting the head of the pro-union Center for VW Facts Joe Disano. They cite an article entitled “Key VW Unionization Voice Was Once Forced to Settle Slander Suit.”

The article highlights a 2012 incident in which Disano, a Michigan political operative, was forced to settle a defamation lawsuit after falsely accusing a state house candidate who was once forced to pay a defamation suit after running robocalls falsely accusing a Michigan State House candidate of making pornography with young girls.

Local Activist Upset with Center for VW Facts

DiSano claims that he is not associated with the UAW and the UAW has disavowed any direct coordination as well. Locals have widely criticized Disano in Chattanooga for his negative advertising.

DiSano has been running ads accusing Volkswagen of being dishonest while citing their work on Deiselgate.

“I think it’s having more of a negative effect than a positive effect,” said one veteran union activist in Chattanooga. “People around here don’t like

Legal Experts: Law Needs to Be Update on Facebook Union Busting

Some legal experts say that the law should be changed to prevent these type of direct targeting of a worker in their free time.

“One reason #laborlaw needs an update. It’s against the law for the boss to come to your house to persuade you to vote against the union — but now they can turn up uninvited in the form of targeted & manipulative Facebook content” tweeted University of Seattle Labor Law Professor Charlotte Garden.

Captive Audience Meetings and Threats of Closing the Plant Having an Effect

In the run-up to the union election, workers have told Payday that Volkswagen is running daily captive audience meetings that last as long as half hour.

In these meetings, Volkswagen officials repeatedly point to the closing of Volkswagen’s last unionized plant in North America in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1988. At the time, Volkswagen official said that the plant was closing not because of its union presence but due to lagging sales of the Volkswagen Rabbit and a failure to gain market share in the US.

(Full Disclosure: My mother worked at the plant and participated in a recognition strike).

Now, Volkswagen is hinting that the plant could close if a union comes in a while citing the example of the 1988 plant closing in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

Volkswagen has also hinted that if a union comes in, Volkswagen may have to discontinue employee car leasing programs. The popular programs allow VW workers and their families to lease cars at a steep discount from what they would on the regular market.

Younger Workers Against the Union, Veterans Try to Steer Them Clear

Union activists report that activists are regularly pushing back in these meetings to challenge management’s claims.

Volkswagen has also promised to make changes in the plant. For some younger workers, the promises are working. However, veterans of the last union election at Volkswagen in 2014, who have heard these promises before aren’t buying it.

“These folks are providing incredible leadership,” says Matt Sexton, who didn’t work at the plant during the last union election

Tennessee Governor Could Drop Last Second Bomb to Kill Drive

In the 2014 election, US Senator Bob Corker said that if the plant unionized that it could lead to Volkswagen closing it.

Emails obtained by the Intercept show that Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is being advised by Corker’s former chief of staff Todd Womack.

Lee has already warned that if VW unionized it could lead to fewer businesses coming to Tennessee.

During the last union election, Tenn Governor threatened to withdraw hundreds of millions in tax subsidies if Volkswagen is unionized. Many fear that Lee may make a similar threat in the last week of the campaign to kill the union drive.

Alright, folks, I gotta run to meet some NewsGuild activists but help us pass the hat so I can get paid. Donate today.

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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