This week, The Huffington Post reported on a failed attempt to unionize workers at a Volkswagen production plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen, a German company, has a “works council” model in Germany to represent its blue collar and salaried employees. They wanted to bring this model to the United States to have representation for their workers. However, under United States law, they cannot create the “works council” without labeling it as an independent union. This one requirement caused tension with local elected officials who were not enamored by the concept of unionized labor in their area. Therefore, they worked up a coup to defeat the unionizing efforts of the company and some employees.
As it relates to globalization, this is a significant development because it displays one way that the United States enforces its practices on other countries and corporations from those countries. As stated by Giddens (2000), the United States is leading the globalization efforts and strongly influencing the actions by others (p. 22). In this case, elected officials are enforcing their beliefs onto others by claiming that the “works council” union would harm the plant and all of its employees. Therefore, it influenced the opinion of employees even though they were open to the “works council” concept.
The article does not detail any awareness efforts by Volkswagen to display any distinctions between American unions and the German “works council” model. With that being said, the article discusses the beliefs of the employees based on the history of unionized efforts in other automotive industries. This includes concerns about the plant closing, decreasing wages, etc. This is similar to what Giddens (2000) calls “manufactured risks” (p. 44) because they are risks formed by the knowledge that the employees have about unions.
Since they don’t have knowledge about “workers council,” they only make their decisions based on the history of what they do know unions in the United States. Therefore, as described by Giddens (2000), the employees are instilling a “precautionary principle” (p. 50) because they do not have enough evidence to believe that a union would bring them benefits in their current employment. Therefore, they chose to stick with their traditions and stay without unionized support.
Giddens, A. (2000). Runaway world: How globalization is reshaping our lives. New York: Routledge.