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Season 5, Episode 104

Professor, and Author, discusses UAW’s organizing efforts in The South

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Guest Name:


Stephen Silvia, PhD

Guest Website:


The UAW's Southern Gamble 

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Stephen Silvia, PhD, a professor in the Politics, Governance and Economics Department at American University, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how automakers in the South have worked to prevent the United Auto Workers' unionization efforts, as well as his recent book, The UAW’s Southern Gamble

Silvia started by outlining the anti-union “playbook” established nearly 10 years ago by various foreign-based automakers in the South and how it is still in use today. He highlighted the Volkswagen organizing campaign by the UAW in 2014 and how letters from elected officials to the company impacted the effort. While the letters didn’t persuade VW to fight the organizing effort, Silvia said it allowed the politicians to put together an anti-union campaign that did enough to prevent the campaign from succeeding.

More recently, the UAW worked with the VW Works Council from Germany to prevent the company from employing a strong anti-union campaign, leading to a successful campaign at the Chatanooga-based plant. A works council is a group of workers elected to work in conjunction with the Local workers' union to create a positive working environment for the union members. While they aren’t allowed under American labor law, these Works Councils have proven they can positively influence organizing campaigns through solidarity with American workers. Silvia explained the German Works Council's influence over the company and how they worked with the leaders at UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga to succeed.

During last week’s Mercedes-Benz union vote in Vance, Ala., Silvia visited the area to speak with workers and learn more about the campaign. He said the organizing effort differed from previous campaigns, as the UAW changed tactics by allowing local workers to take the lead. Silvia described how the company was able to influence enough workers to vote against the union. While the outcome may have beeen disappointing, there were a lot of positives for a future organizing attempt by the UAW at the plant, Silvia said.

Listen to the show above to hear more about the UAW's organizing efforts in the South. Click on the following link for information on how to buy a copy of Silvia’s book, The UAW’s Southern Gamble: Organizing Workers at Foreign-Owned Vehicle Plants.


America’s Work Force is the only daily labor podcast in the US and has been on the air since 1993, supplying listeners with useful, relevant input into their daily lives through fact-finding features, in-depth interviews, informative news segments and practical consumer reports. America’s Work Force is committed to providing an accessible venue in which America's workers and their families can hear discussion on important, relevant topics such as employment, healthcare, legislative action, labor-management relations, corporate practices, finances, local and national politics, consumer reports and labor issues.

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