An employee uses a robotic arm to help lift internal parts

An employee uses a robotic arm to help lift internal parts for a Mercedes-Benz C-Class at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International factory in Vance, Alabama on June 8, 2017.

(Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

GOP Governors Show 'How Scared They Are' of Workers Organizing With UAW

Congressman Greg Casar said the Republicans behind a new joint statement "sound more like corporate lobbyists than governors."

As Volkswagen workers in Tennessee began voting on whether to join the United Auto Workers, progressive critics on Wednesday continued to call out six Southern GOP governors for jointly saying they "are highly concerned about the unionization campaign driven by misinformation and scare tactics that the UAW has brought into our states."

Govs. Kay Ivey of Alabama, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, Bill Lee of Tennessee, and Greg Abbott of Texas issued their statement in response to "the largest organizing drive in modern American history," which the UAW launched after major contract wins following a strike targeting the Big Three automakers—General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis—last year.

"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 Republican leaders said, claiming that "unionization would certainly put our states' jobs in jeopardy" and the UAW is "making big promises to our constituents that they can't deliver on."

"We have serious reservations that the UAW leadership can represent our values. They proudly call themselves democratic socialists and seem more focused on helping President [Joe] Biden get reelected than on the autoworker jobs being cut at plants they already represent," the governors added, nodding to the union's January endorsement of the Democrat—UAW president Shawn Fain also called the presumptive Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump, a "scab."

The Economic Policy Institutesaid Wednesday that the governors' anti-union statement "clearly shows how scared they are that workers organizing with UAW to improve jobs and wages will upend the highly unequal, failed anti-worker economic development model of Southern states."

Responding to the statement on social media, the Congressional Labor Caucus declared that "we speak up when we see threats to workers' rights. Workers must be allowed to choose whether to form a union on their own—free from influence from their employers or politicians. Shame on these governors for putting out this anti-union propaganda."

After Ivey shared the statement on social media, Nina Turner, a senior fellow at the Institute on Race, Power, and Political Economy, asked, "Better wages and working conditions are against the values of your state?"

MSNBC's Chris Hayes was even snarkier, jokingly calling the statement "yet more evidence of the populist, pro-worker turn of the Trump-era GOP."

The UAW vote in Chattanooga, Tennessee is set to wrap up on Friday. Then, attention is expected to shift to Vance, Alabama. Workers at a nonunion Mercedes-Benz plant there submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board earlier this month requesting an election to join the union.

Noting Ivey's social media post about the statement, Diana Hussein, who does communications work for the UAW, said: "She's mad cuz she wants to keep the Alabama discount that leaves workers behind. No more! #StandUpUAW."

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, also took aim at Ivey, saying, "You used Alabama taxpayers' money to have state troopers escort out-of-state scabs to break the strike of YOUR constituents."

Nelson explained that she was referring to the "hardworking" United Mine Workers of America members employed by Warrior Met, "who were fighting for the right to see their families more than a few days a year."

More Perfect Union told Ivey that "unions only threaten your values if you value denying workers a living wage and good benefits."

In contrast with the Republican governors, around two-thirds of the Senate Democratic Caucus in January wrote to 13 nonunion automakers—including Mercedes and Volkswagen—urging them not to illegally block UAW organizing at their plants.

"We are concerned by reporting at numerous automakers that management has acted illegally to block unionization efforts," the senators stressed, citing multiple examples. "These retaliatory actions are hostile to workers' rights and must not be repeated if further organizing efforts are made by these companies' workers. We therefore urge you all to commit to implementation of a neutrality agreement at your manufacturing plants."

Welcoming their letter, Fain said that "every autoworker in this country deserves their fair share of the auto industry's record profits, whether at the Big Three or the Nonunion 13. We applaud these U.S. senators for standing with workers who are standing up for economic justice on the job."

"It's time for the auto companies to stop breaking the law and take their boot off the neck of the American autoworker," the union leader added, "whether they're at Volkswagen, Toyota, Tesla, or any other corporation doing business in this country."

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