American workers tend to take undemocratic workplaces for granted, believing that’s just the way the capitalist world works. But to varying degrees, working people in other developed countries enjoy far more say over how their companies operate.
In Germany, the law requires that workers be represented on companies’ supervisory boards. Known as Mitbestimmung, or co-determination, the practice gives workers significant voice in determining a company’s future.
Last week, workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant voted against joining the United Auto Workers, and hostility toward organized labor among Tennessee politicians played a key role in the UAW’s defeat.
Today, Andreas Cremer reports for Reuters that VW’s German worker representatives are considering how to respond.
Volkswagen’s top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized…
Chattanooga is VW’s only factory in the US and one of the company’s few in the world without a works council.
“I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again,” said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council.
“If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor” of potentially building another plant in the US south, Osterloh, who is also on VW’s supervisory board, said.
The 20-member panel — evenly split between labor and management — has to approve any decision on closing plants or building new ones.
Osterloh’s comments were published on Wednesday in German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. A spokesman at the Wolfsburg-based works council confirmed the remarks.
“The conservatives stirred up massive, anti-union sentiments,” Osterloh said. “It’s possible that the conclusion will be drawn that this interference amounted to unfair labor praxis.”
Read the rest at Reuters.