The Center for Worker Freedom, which is linked to anti-tax
advocate Grover Norquist, plans to renew its battle against the UAW
at plants in Alabama and Mississippi where the union wants to
"Those are likely the next big ones for the UAW," said Matt
Patterson, executive director of the center. "We'll be there."
The UAW suffered a bitter setback on Friday when employees at the
Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted 712 to 626
against joining the union, even though Volkswagen had remained
neutral in the union drive.
The loss was a blow to the union's long-term plans to organize auto
plants in the South. Patterson said his group would watch closely to
see if the UAW adjusted its organizing strategy at the Daimler
Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, and a Nissan Motor Co plant
near Jackson, Mississippi.
"We'll modify our strategy accordingly," said Patterson, who spent
more than a year helping to organize resistance to the union drive
The center, created under the umbrella of Norquist's anti-tax group
Americans for Tax Reform, used billboards and 30-second radio spots
across the region to criticize the UAW effort and blame the union
for the fiscal woes in Detroit, the struggling hub of the U.S. auto
"The win reminds everyone, workers, the business community and
families, of the costs of unionization — Detroit and decline — and
the real possibility of stopping this recent power grab," Norquist
said in an email to Reuters.
A chorus of Republican politicians in Tennessee and other
conservative groups also fought against the union drive, arguing it
would hurt the state's business climate, and some analysts cautioned
against giving the center too much credit for the outcome.
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Donald Schroeder, a Boston lawyer who works with management on labor
issues, attributed the failed effort to the uncertain economy and
said Republican politicians opposed to the union drive played a
bigger role than Norquist's group.
The impact from Norquist's organization was "limited in scope," said
Schroeder, adding employees were "worried first about keeping their
"I think it will be difficult to organize other plants in light of
the VW vote," Schroeder said.
Patterson declined to discuss how much was spent on the campaign by
the center, which worked with a coalition of community and business
leaders to rally opposition.
He said the battle had awakened conservatives to the need to fight
against unions like the UAW, and how the union responds to the
defeat will be "pretty interesting," he said.
"They are going to have to sit back and look at their balance sheets
and see what they can afford to do now," Patterson said.
The percentage of U.S. workers belonging to unions reached a
historic low at 11.3 percent in 2013, according to government data.
In 1983, U.S. union membership rate was 20.1 percent
(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Eric Beech and Bernie
Woodall; editing by G Crosse)
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