Chris Brooks

Labor Notes Goes to Asia

Workshop participants at the Labor Notes Asia Regional Conference discussing and writing about strikes.

At times it can seem like international solidarity is just a rallying cry, devoid of the oomph that would make it a force to build power among workers across borders. But this past August, we had the chance to witness international solidarity in action.

Chanting in English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Tagalog, a multinational crowd of union activists rallied in the swampy heat of Taiwan’s capital in front of the headquarters of Foxconn, the notorious manufacturer of iPhones.

The UAW strike against General Motors is heating up on the picket lines as the stand-off enters its second week.

The UAW strike against General Motors is heating up on the picket lines as the stand-off enters its second week. The first week saw union members arrested, presidential candidates march on the lines, and rumors floated that the strike could extend beyond a tentative agreement through the ratification vote.

(Ready to lend a hand? Click here for a list of picket line locations.)

GM strikers march with "UAW on strike" signs. Black and white women in foreground.

Forty-nine thousand auto workers are on strike at General Motors in the largest private sector strike since the last time union and company clashed, in 2007.

(Ready to lend a hand? Click here for a list of picket line locations.)

Volkswagen Declares Mission Accomplished

Devil horns, pitchfork, and tail have been added to the VW logo on a car

In the carrot and stick approach to union-busting, Frank Fischer was the carrot.

Fischer, a former plant executive whom many workers remembered fondly, parachuted in as interim CEO of the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Volkswagen plant at the end of May to help sway the plant’s 1,700 hourly workers to vote against unionization.

He replaced unpopular CEO Antonio Pinto. The point was to show workers that the company was listening to their concerns and making changes.

Woman holding "UNION YES" sign and child holding U.S. flag, with VW plant behind

It was a bad sign. On the day voting began at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the shift change suddenly turned blue.

Throngs of workers were passing through the factory turnstiles in both directions, as the day shift ended and the night shift began. On the preceding days, handfuls of union supporters in bright green shirts were there to hand out flyers and banter with their co-workers.

Volkswagen Declares War against Works Council and German Union

Group of workers in matching green T-shirts outside the plant

A top employee representative in Volkswagen’s Global Works Council was denied entry into the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory today as the union election began.

The plant’s 1,700 eligible hourly employees began voting this morning on whether to form a union with the United Auto Workers. The results will be announced Friday night.

According to a statement from the Global Works Council, Johan Järvklo arrived at the plant to be an election observer. Workers confirmed that he was booted.

“I’m only 33 and I can’t see myself working here for another 10 years,” said Ashley Murray. “I would be disabled by then. We need a union because they are a multibillion-dollar company and they treat us like shit.”

Murray is a production employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of 18 hourly employees there I interviewed for this story. Comments like hers were almost universal.

A crowd with signs saying "Millwrights Local 1554 support UAWVW workers," "IUPAT Local 226 supports UAWVW workers," "Solidarity," "Union Yes," "Ver.di," "UAW"

The new head of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant led two all-plant captive-audience meetings on Tuesday, a day before the National Labor Relations Board announced it has scheduled a union election.

Labor Notes has obtained audio of the speeches by CEO Frank Fischer. Both times he insinuated that the United Auto Workers were to blame for the closure of Volkswagen’s plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, in 1988.

All 1,709 hourly employees at the plant will be eligible to participate in the election June 12, 13, and 14.

In a week of frenzied developments in the organizing drive at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the National Labor Relations Board tossed out the union's election petition, the Auto Workers (UAW) immediately refiled it, and the company announced it is removing the plant's unpopular CEO.

The Labor Board's decision gives the German automaker even more time to engage in the scorched-earth anti-union tactics commonly deployed by U.S. employers.