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Labor and Management Working Together

Is this an innovative step for the United Automobile Workers and Volkswagen?

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If Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, becomes unionized—and signs indicate that it will—it would be a win for not only the workers but also for the company, because unions help make high-performance workplace practices—such as Volkswagen’s works council—much more effective than they would be in a nonunion facility. Unfortunately, because some conservative ideologues oppose almost anything having to do with unions, this win-win scenario has become controversial. But as a review of the facts indicates, Volkswagen, or VW, has everything to gain if its workers join a union and participate in a works council.

Indeed, Volkswagen appears to know this: The company already uses works councils at plants around the world to bring employees together with management to discuss how to improve productivity. And though there is currently no works council at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant, the company has made statements indicating that it is working with the United Automobile Workers, or UAW, to potentially create one there too.

Evidence from Germany and the United States indicates that works councils and other efforts to involve workers in production decisions can be quite successful. Indeed, Germany—where works councils are common—is a world leader in manufacturing exports. In the United States, when such practices are implemented, they commonly have positive results.

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Authors

David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

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