REACTION: 'We're not leaving Chattanooga'

VW worker: 'Why buy a ticket on the Titanic?'

VW workers install fittings on a five-cylinder engine in June 2011 at the company's factory in Chattanooga. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO

UPDATED: 2/17/2014 8:24 pm ET

A roundup of what labor experts, UAW leaders, union supporters and opponents, and others are saying about the union's organizing setback at Volkswagen AG's assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.:

"If you open up a plant you got 3,000 jobs, and you have 15,000, 20,000 people applying for the jobs. For a lot of these workers the non-union job they have right now is a whole lot better than what they had."

-- Merle Black, professor of politics at Emory University in Atlanta, noting how high unemployment remains a challenge for union organizers in the U.S. South, and may have swayed the vote.

"Volkswagen's a class act. They really are. They set a standard in the United States ... We're not leaving Chattanooga ... It took seven years to organize Ford. So I'll be around for the next five."

-- Dennis Williams, the secretary-treasurer of the UAW. Williams is expected to be elected the union's next president in June.

"If the union can't win [in Chattanooga], it can't win anywhere."

-- Steve Silvia, a professor of economics and trade at American University, in The Wall Street Journal.

"Look at what happened to the auto manufacturers in Detroit and how they struggled. They all shared one huge factor: the UAW. If you look at how the UAW's membership has plunged, that shows they're doing a lot wrong."

-- Mike Jarvis, a three-year employee at the VW plant, in The New York Times.

Williams: "It took seven years to organize Ford. So I'll be around for the next five." Photo credit: REUTERS

"Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee."

-- UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union's Southern organizing efforts.

"I just didn't feel like we needed an outside group coming in to represent us."

-- 21-year-old VW worker Michael Taylor of suburban Chattanooga, in the Detroit Free Press.

"Volkswagen's U.S. business is very fragile. They need to be able to fluctuate the number of employees. With the UAW in the company, flexibility measures would probably be more difficult to implement."

-- Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

"The ferocity of the anti-union forces only reinforces the fact that there is a powerful new form of organizing emerging."

-- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

"The UAW has a much larger agenda than promoting works councils. It aims to organize more plants, rebuild its ranks, and then raise wages and benefits in all southern transplant factories, perhaps to the level prior to the collapse of Detroit's automakers and the two-tier wage system meant to provide relief. VW management may believe it will be getting a works council in Chattanooga, similar to the one that rules in its German factories. The history of the UAW, however, is marked by eruptions of acrimony, work stoppages, and confrontation against managements. Are we seeing at VW a new UAW, free of strikes and inflammatory rhetoric? Perhaps. The UAW's many opponents, including politicians who welcomed VW to Tennessee with financial incentives, don't think so; they see something sinister: A Trojan Horse."

-- Doron Levin of

Trumka: A powerful new form of union organizing is emerging. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

"Whatever the result, workers and Volkswagen should feel proud of how they conducted themselves."

-- The UAW, in a Twitter posting, as votes were being counted Friday night.

"The lesson here is that the UAW, and American labor unions in general, are doomed unless they can make a more compelling case for the value proposition of union membership. Show how workers' lives will improve, how unions will help communities grow jobs — or become extinct. The absence of that compelling case, as with any campaign decided at a ballot box, left a message vacuum that was quickly filled by negative messages from powerful UAW foes."

-- Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press business columnist

"I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future."

-- U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a vocal opponent of the UAW. Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, helped negotiate the incentive package that lured Volkswagen to the city.

"Chattanooga is the new Madison, Wisconsin."

-- The Communications Workers of America, in a statement.

"It'll seem as if it's just a continuing spiral of decline for the American labor movement when one of its most powerful and reputed unions cannot win a certification election under the most favorable conditions."

-- Gary Chaison, professor of labor law at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

"We felt like we were already being treated very well by Volkswagen in terms of pay and benefits and bonuses. We also looked at the track record of the UAW. Why buy a ticket on the Titanic?"

-- VW employee Sean Moss, who voted against the UAW.

King: "If you don't win, you review your strategy." Photo credit: REUTERS

"Volkswagen turned out to be painful because it was so close. This doesn't prove it can't be done; it proves how close they came. It laid the basis for future organizing."

-- Harley Shaiken, a labor economist with the University of California at Berkeley

"[UAW President Bob] King joins a line of UAW leaders who weren't able to change the status quo: the UAW has only been able to represent 'transplant' workers when it has been let in from the start: a Mitsubishi Motors factory in Illinois (originally a Chrysler-Mitsubishi joint venture), a Mazda factory in Michigan (eventually taken over by Ford) and a now-closed General Motors-Toyota Motor joint venture in California (where GM supplied the factory and workers). But it should be noted that not all of the 'transplants' are in the South. Toyota has plants in Kentucky (a border state) and Indiana; Honda has plants in Ohio and Indiana; and Subaru also has a factory in Indiana. All are unorganized by the UAW."

-- Bill Koenig, a contributor at

"The difference in the vote ... was people hunting down the information to make an intelligence decision, not just listening to your buddy. Of course, if you don't win, you review your strategy."

-- UAW President Bob King

Gabe Nelson, Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report.

You can reach David Phillips at



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