US labor, unions, wages, workers' rights, UAW, Shawn Fain, general strike plan
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Top progressives hailed a historic vote in Tennessee, where the workers of a Volkswagen plant voted to unionize.

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Following a momentous vote, in which workers of a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee voted to unionize late Friday night, some of the country’s top progressives were ecstatic. 

“An utterly historic victory for the working class. Tennessee is shining bright tonight,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). “We are in a new era. Congratulations to the courageous workers in Chattanooga and the entire UAW. Absolutely heroic. Solidarity IS the strategy — across the South, and all over the country.”

The landmark vote extends the reach and influence of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union into the South. 

The overwhelming support for joining the UAW — 73 percent of workers at the Chattanooga plant — was also significant. Two prior votes there had failed.

“For decades, corporations set up shop in non-union states to avoid paying fair wages,” stated Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “Today, a new era begins.”

The UAW victory means that Volkswagen employees made their workplace the first foreign-owned auto plant in the South since the 1940s that is unionized.

It likely won’t be the last. 

A Mercedes plant in Alabama will hold a similar vote next month, and early indications are that the workers there will also decide to unionize.

“Let me congratulate the brave Volkswagen workers in Tennessee for winning a landslide victory to join the UAW. This historic union victory in the South shows that when workers stand up for economic justice and against corporate greed there is nothing they cannot accomplish,” stated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “This is a major victory not just for United Auto Workers at Volkswagen in Tennessee, it’s a victory for every worker in America. Even in the most conservative states in America, workers are sick and tired of corporate greed and are demanding economic justice. The tide is turning.”

Sanders may be right. In recent years, unions across the US have experienced a resurgence — both in terms of influence and popularity. 

After a steady rise in support over a decade, unions now enjoy the support of more than two-thirds of Americans. In addition, during the big labor disputes of last year that involved autoworkers, actors, and writers, Americans overwhelmingly sided with the workers in each case. 

The UAW strike targeting the Big Three automakers, as well as the resulting increase in pay and benefits, likely played a role in the vote at the Volkswagen plant. 

Union members have long been stalwart supporters of the Democratic Party. A recent survey shows that this support has solidified in recent years. 

Since 2017 the share of union members who are also Democrats has increased from 40 percent to 51 percent. At the same time, the overlap between union and GOP membership has dropped from 30 percent to 23 percent. 

At the same time, Democrats have suffered a decline in their nonunion, blue-collar base as many workers in the US responded positively to Donald Trump’s populist and isolationist message. 

Regaining these votes will be crucial for President Joe Biden in November. 

That is likely one of the reasons why he walked a picket line in Detroit last year, becoming the first sitting president to join a union strike.

On Friday night, he hailed this new victory.

“Across the country, union members have logged major wins and large raises, including auto workers, actors, port workers, Teamsters, writers, warehouse and health care workers, and more,” Bide said in a statement. “Together, these union wins have helped raise wages and demonstrate once again that the middle-class built America and that unions are still building and expanding the middle class for all workers.”


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