Both Volkswagen AG management and the United Auto Workers union will avoid as much as possible the failure that enveloped the carmaker’s Westmoreland County plant in Pennsylvania 25 years ago. Although the situation is much different from 25 years ago, the failure of the Pennsylvania site is part of UAW’s troubled past that it has to overcome as it attempts to win representation rights for VW workers at the carmaker’s Chattanooga facility in Tennessee.
VW shut down its Pennsylvania site in 1988, and some formers workers couldn’t handle the situation, leading to fatal tragedies.
Ron Dinsmore, who was at the site since it started operations in 1978 until it built its last car in 1988, told Reuters that around 19 former workers at the VW Pennsylvania site committed suicide. He was also a UAW official by the time.
When it decided to open its first assembly site in the United States in the 1970s, Volkswagen thought that dealing with the UAW is inevitable, as the union was then at height of its power as an industrial union. It was even considered as a force in US politics.
Back to the present, the UAW is currently trying to represent workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, aiming to boost its already declining membership numbers as well as power.
UAW leaders remarked that things will be different this time, since they are trying to set up a new type of labor model at the Chattanooga site, in which the union would represent hourly workers in partnership with a German-style workers council.