Yesterday, In These Times’s Mike Elk got his hands on a private document showing how DC-based political groups have moved to block the United Automobile Workers organizing effort at the Volkswagon plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Though workers at the plant, VW and the UAW seem largely in agreement about forming a workers’ council at the factory, prominent anti-union groups have swarmed Chattanooga to obstruct the deal. A consultant named Matt Patterson, formerly with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, authored the document, obtained by Elk, that spells out his efforts to mobilize Tea Party, libertarian, and local media attacks on the VW organizing drive.
In his proposal to donors, Patterson says his plan is to kill the momentum for unionization in the South, noting, “significant impact can made be over the next year in Tennessee, Alabama, and throughout the South to keep the UAW from organizing the foreign-owned auto facilities.”
Though much of Patterson’s tactics have been concealed until now, he did author an op-ed in May that called on Southerners to regard the union-drive as a chance to reenact the “bloodiest days of the entire Civil War.” Patterson wrote:
One hundred and fifty years ago an invading Union army was halted at Chattanooga by the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg. The Battle of Chickamauga was one of the bloodiest days of the entire Civil War, and a resounding defeat for the Northern forces. Today Southeastern Tennessee faces invasion from another union— an actual labor union, the United Auto Workers (UAW). The UAW has its heart set on organizing Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant, which employs several thousand and supports thousands more throughout the Southeast. […]
No wonder Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd warns that unionization “will be like a cancer on [Chattanooga’s] economic growth.” Indeed it would be, though perhaps an infection is a more apt metaphor, an infection borne by an invading union force from the North. One hundred and fifty years ago, the people of Tennessee routed such a force in the Battle of Chickamauga.
Let their descendants go now and do likewise.
The battle Patterson romanticizes in his column resulted in over 34,000 casualties. One of the leading officers in the battle, Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest—a wealthy slave-trader—went on after the war to found the Ku Klux Klan, a group that helped powerful elites suppress black-white labor unity through a campaign of terrorism and murder.
While Patterson seems to be making a handsome profit by sowing divisions at the VW plant, some may read his Civil War analogy as an appeal for violence.
Liliana Segura asks why thousands of prisoners should have to die behind bars for nonviolent crimes.