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Trump case expected to head to the jury today; IN food banks concerned about draft Farm Bill; NH parents, educators urge veto of anti-LGBTQ+ bills; Study shows a precipitous drop in migratory fish populations, in US and worldwide.

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Actor Robert DeNiro joins Capitol Police officers to protest against Donald Trump at his New York hush money trial as both sides make closing arguments. And the Democratic Party moves to make sure President Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

VW workers make history as first Southern automaker to unionize

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Monday, April 22, 2024   

Late Friday, a majority of Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga overwhelmingly voted to join the United Auto Workers.

The vote is historic, as they are the first workers in the South outside the "Big Three" automakers to be successful. Among the more than 3,600 workers, 73% voted for the UAW to represent them.

Isaac Meadows, an assembly line worker and member of the volunteer organizing committee, said the Volkswagen workers now have a voice.

"We actually now have a vested interest in this company as a partnership," Meadows explained. "We get to negotiate our pay, our benefits, our working schedule, and then ultimately, demand the respect that we deserve in the workplace."

The vote to unionize came despite opposition from six Southern governors, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

President Joe Biden congratulated the Volkswagen workers for their groundbreaking decision.

Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, in a victory speech after the vote, praised workers for their decadelong fight and said now, they have to continue to stand together.

"The real fight begins now," Fain asserted. "The real fight is getting your fair share. The real fight is the fight to get more time with your families. The real fight is to fight for our union contracts."

Sharon Block, professor of practice at the Center for Labor and a Just Economy at Harvard Law School, said the Chattanooga vote will radiate strength to other campaigns, including Mercedes-Benz workers at an Alabama plant who will vote to organize next month.

"Workers for a long time have been told, 'You can't organize in the South. The labor movement is on a downslide; it's not possible,'" Block observed. The UAW showed that it can be done, and I think that just opens up a window of possibility."

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, said research indicates when unions establish themselves in specific businesses and sectors, they create ripple effects on nonunionized plants. He added when workers benefit, communities benefit.

"When workers have higher wages and better working conditions, it allows them to better participate in their local communities, better support their families," Hertel-Fernandez emphasized. "I think there's good reason to think that this is going to help the local community in which the plant operates."

He predicted the win will fuel future UAW efforts in the South.


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