Chattanooga, Tenn. (Michigan News Source) – Volkswagen in Tennessee made history as it voted overwhelmingly to join the United Auto Workers Union, becoming the first of the southern auto workers outside of the Big Three to vote to join a union.

Results provided by the UAW, revealed that 2628 yes votes won out to 985 no votes, or 73% to 27% in favor of joining the union.

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“This election is big,” said Kelcey Smith, a worker in the paint department at Volkswagen. “People in high places told us good things can’t happen here in Chattanooga. They told us this isn’t the time to stand up, this isn’t the place. But we did stand up and we won. This is the time; this is the place. Southern workers are ready to stand up and win a better life.”

This vote was the third attempt by the UAW to organize the VW plant to vote to join the union.

UAW President Shawn Fain weighed in on the win on NPR on Monday.

“Corporations were keeping more and more (profits), the wealthier people more and more, the workers aren’t getting their share and I think working-class people are just fed up in this country and they’re ready for change,” Fain said Monday during an interview.

Other members of the VW plant shared their reasons for the vote.

“We saw the big contract that UAW workers won at the Big Three and that got everybody talking,” said Zachary Costello, a trainer in VW’s proficiency room. “You see the pay, the benefits, the rights UAW members have on the job, and you see how that would change your life. That’s why we voted overwhelmingly for the union. Once people see the difference a union makes, there’s no way to stop them.”

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According to Doug Snyder, a body worker at Volkswagen, this was a big movement for “every blue-collar worker in America.”

“Our vote shows that workers everywhere want a better life on and off the job,” said Snyder in a statement. “Fair pay is important, but so is time with our families. So is a voice for safety in our plant. We’re looking forward to getting to the bargaining table with the company and winning a contract that makes things right at Volkswagen.”

A group of Republican Governors authored a letter to dissuade the VW workers from unionizing ahead of the vote.

Last Tuesday ahead of the vote, Governor Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), along with governors from Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas issued a joint statement on the vote:

“We the governors of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas are highly concerned about the unionization campaign driven by misinformation and scare tactics that the UAW has brought into our states,” the letter said. “As governors, we have a responsibility to our constituents to speak up when we see special interests looking to come into our state and threaten our jobs and the values we live by.”

The governors went on to explain their view that unions would affect growth in the manufacturing sector in the south.
“We want to keep good paying jobs and continue to grow the American auto manufacturing sector here,” the letter said. “A successful unionization drive will stop this growth in its tracks, to the detriment of American workers.”

For the letter, see here.

UAW anticipates another automaker unionization vote soon.

The 5,000 workers at Mercedes-Benz in Vance, Ala., will have their vote to join the UAW next month, according to the UAW.

“In the wake of the historic Stand Up Strike victory at the Big Three auto companies, over 10,000 non-union auto workers have signed union cards in recent months, with public campaigns launched at Mercedes, Volkswagen, Hyundai in Montgomery, Ala., and Toyota in Troy, Mo. Workers at over two dozen other facilities are also actively organizing,” the UAW said in a statement.

The vote will take place at the Mercedes-Benz between May 13 to 17.