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.”

One of the greatest things this nation has ever done was to rebuild Germany and Japan after the Second World War. Our former enemies are now models of functioning democracy and industrial might. It wasn’t just a magnanimous instinct on our part. We had learned the hard way that retribution against Germany after World War I only paved the way for Hitler, who came to power by exploiting the empty stomachs of Germans. Fast forward 67 years from VE Day. Germany, in particular, is the economic envy of the world. What we could learn from Germany would go a long way toward cancelling the symbolic debt owed us from the Marshall Plan. If only we would pay attention.

Harold Meyerson writes:

Germany’s surge in exports may be partly attributable to its union workers agreeing to hold their wages flat (at levels still well above those of their U.S. counterparts). But their workers’ willingness to sacrifice in order to stay competitive is surely increased by the fact that their CEOs on average make just 11 times as much as their workers. In the United States, chief executives make roughly 200 to 300 times (choose your survey) as much as their average employees’ salary.

Time for a wake up call, America.


Former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke is making an online appeal for financial support after his arrest in Germany prevented him from speaking at a nationalist gathering. The ex-Louisiana state legislator, 61, who was dubbed an “undesirable foreigner” and detained in Cologne before he could address a group called Outside the Network on Friday, said he needs the money to stay in German and wage a battle “for my rights and the rights of the people of Europe to hear me.”

OK, let’s face it. David Duke is not only an “undesirable foreigner,” as Germany described him. He’s “undesirable” period.

As this article also reports:

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups and fights discrimination cases, describes Duke as the “most recognizable figure of the American radical right, a neo-Nazi, longtime Klan leader and now international spokesman for Holocaust denial.”

The self-inflicted wounds from Alabama’s most-abusive-in-the-nation immigration law just keep on coming. Last week, a manager for Mercedes-Benz, visiting from Germany, was pulled over in his rental car by a police officer in Tuscaloosa near where a Mercedes plant builds sport-utility vehicles. The manager didn’t have his driver’s license with him, and only a few months ago he just would have been given a ticket. But Alabama’s new law, now in effect, demands tougher action against suspected illegal immigrants. The manager was arrested and taken to police headquarters. Germany is Alabama’s largest international trading partner, and Mercedes, a unit of Daimler, recently announced more than $2 billion in new investment there through 2014.

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is being talked about as if it originated on another planet and, in its completely alien form, showed up in lower Manhattan with no warning. Naturally, the establishment dealing with it with a combination of bullying and condescension. To the establishment’s amazement, the movement, like some science fiction horror movie creature, is not going away. Indeed, it simply continues to grow and morph into other “Occupy” efforts in various cities around the country and, now, around the world.