The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

VW Workers Built a New Union!

Apr 22, 2024

Workers at the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee plant just voted 73% YES to join the UAW. This was a rare union victory for an auto manufacturing plant in the south.

The VW workers faced a lot of threats from those forces outside the plant who don’t want the workers to have a union. Politicians, business people, and the media used scare tactics, telling the workers that the plant would close if the workers voted for the union. Right before the union vote at VW, the Republican governors of six southern states, where the UAW is also trying to organize auto plants, signed a joint letter saying that unions threaten the “values” of southerners and that it was northerners pushing the union on southerners.

In the past, this fear-mongering propaganda had worked. In 2014 and in 2019, there were UAW organizing drives at VW. Both times, the union lost in close votes. This time, workers did not fall for these lies.

As can happen in the workers’ movement, the two previous union organizing defeats at VW helped workers learn valuable lessons and laid the foundation for a future victory. Two Chattanooga plant workers interviewed in the media explained that they worked on all three organizing drives and they worked on influencing their coworkers in between. They watched over time as more workers came around to the union point-of-view.

One union organizer inside said that at work during the week before this union vote, “All I could see on the line was red T-shirts in support of the union.”

What issues did workers name at this plant as reasons for their YES vote? Workers said they got an 11% raise in November of 2023—after the UAW strikes—and then the company turned around and made their healthcare more expensive! The workforce was not fooled by this “raise.”

One VW worker said that they needed to have a pension to retire on. Other VW workers talked about the speedup and working conditions in the plant. A VW worker said, “It’s really hard to build a quality product when all you’re doing all day long is thinking about how bad your shoulder hurts, or how bad your feet hurt, or how bad your knees hurt.”

VW workers now have a union. But just having a union is not enough. Workers in the UAW plants in the north can tell you that they face many of the same problems as the VW workers in Chattanooga. It is going to take a fight to improve those conditions. But the VW workers have a head start on that fight. They built an organization inside the plant that stood up to the threats they faced and won the union vote. That’s what a union really is—the organized force of the workers. That kind of force organized together can make a fight against the problems that the VW workers, and all auto workers, are facing.