Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO writes:
Us vs. them.
Those words are behind a bevy of problems in U.S. culture and politics. They sum up how companies and labor unions too often position themselves, especially in the South. But labor relations just across the Georgia border at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant may be poised to break through that mindset.
Volkswagen has made “co-determination” an integral part of its business model. It means workers and management recognize their stake in the company’s success and work together. At Volkswagen’s plant in Germany, employees have a voice through a works council and voluntary representation by IG Metall, a union of 2.2 million auto, steel, electrical, textile, wood and plastics industry workers. Every major Volkswagen assembly facility in the world has union representation, except the Tennessee plant.
Volkswagen has opened the door to introducing this model of labor relations in Chattanooga and set a model for other companies moving to the South. In partnership with the UAW, the collaboration would form the first-ever works council in the U.S.
A works council with local representation gives workers a voice in the company’s success. It sets a new tone — swapping “us vs. them” for “we’re all in this together.”