The last 40 years have been pretty tough for the American Big 3 automakers and the United Auto Workers. First came Japanese imports, followed by outsourcing and Japanese and European transplants. Once the Big 3 and UAW had a monopoly chokehold on the auto consumer; now their market share is well below 50%.
The UAW's only hope for survival is to organize the transplants. They had a golden opportunity with the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. Volkswagen offered no resistance to the UAW; in fact, they gave it an open mike to promote itself. But just like a Road Runner cartoon, the outcome in Chattanooga was the same as in other big union organizing campaigns -- the workers chose to remain nonunion (WSJ report here).
In retrospect, the outcome is no real surprise. VW workers were earning almost as much as their Big 3 counterparts (new hires at VW actually make more than their Big 3 counterparts), so why pay union dues? Also for better or worse, the UAW has earned an anti-management reputation and receives much of the blame for the demise of the Big 3. (Aside: making lousy cars also played a role.) Bottom line: the VW workers weren't buying what the UAW was selling.
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