Southern Governors Oppose Unionization Efforts Among Auto Workers

A statement signed by six Republican governors say unionization could disrupt their local economies.

Workers at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, TN, are about to vote on whether or not to join the UAW.

In a statement released April 16, six Republican governors from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas publicly condemned the United Auto Workers' (UAW) efforts to unionize auto plants in their states.

The statement, released by the Office of Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, came the day before 4,300 Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga, TN, were set open a vote on UAW membership through April 19.

The UAW is intensifying its campaign to organize workers at auto manufacturing sites in traditionally anti-union Southern states, building on recent victories that secured substantial concessions from major U.S. automakers.

The governors argued the UAW's presence could disrupt their local economies and align too closely with political interests, particularly noting the union's support for President Joe Biden's reelection.

"As governors, we have a responsibility to our constituents to speak up when we see special interests looking to come into our state and threaten our jobs and the values we live by," the statement said.

The statement said the governors are concerned automakers would leave their states if the plants become unionized.

"We have worked tirelessly on behalf of our constituents to bring good-paying jobs to our states...Unionization would certainly put our states’ jobs in jeopardy," the statement said.

Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant, which produces the German automaker's EVs for North America, has been a battleground for unionization efforts, with the UAW narrowly losing votes in 2014 and 2019. In December, workers there filed charges against management for illegal union-busting efforts.

After the UAW negotiated record-setting contracts last fall for 150,000 workers at General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, nonunion workers at the Chattanooga plant received an 11% pay increase, but their wages still trail behind those at unionized Detroit automaker facilities.

Workers for Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz in Alabama have filed similar charges against their employers.

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