Tennessee Companies Prepare for Possible Union Campaigns

Reported by: Bill Mitchell

Edited by: Harrison Pirtle
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Updated: 2/28/2014 8:14 am
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV) - American labor unions are setting their sights on companies in the south.
In 2012 Tennessee had the fastest rate of growth in union membership of any state--an increase of 25 percent.
But businesses are stepping their efforts to deal with organizing efforts.

Fast food workers in some states are demanding an increase in the minimum wage to 15-dollars...but they are also seeking to organize a union.
That counters a long-standing trend away from organized labor in the United States over the last few years.
Only 11% of American workers now belong to a union...and Tennessee leaders say more labor unions means fewer new jobs.
The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce is taking it a step further.

MEKESHA MONTGOMERY, MANAGING PARTNER, FROST BROWN TODD LLC "We're here today talking to employers in Chattanooga about their rights ..In the event they have a union campaign going on at their work places."

The Nashville-based law firm is holding paid seminars like this one at the Hampton Inn, around the state,in association with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

MEKESHA MONTGOMERY "Both the UAW and the AFL-CIO have announced southern strategies where they have said they're going to target southern employers for union activity."
But Chattanooga labor leaders are trying to make their points, too.

GARY WATKINS, PRES., CHATTANOOGA LABOR COUNCIL "Most unions are partners. And so the recognition that unions are not there to stir up trouble ..we're trying to keep our people working and your employees working."

Watkins says he believes the Chamber of Commerce itself, is a form of union.

GARY WATKINS "They promote the right to work..however if you're going to belong to them ..you have to pay dues..or you don't enjoy the benefits of their membership."

Both sides are now doing their homework.

MEKESHA MONTGOMERY "Mostly I don't think they understand what they can and cannot say..what rights they have."

Because of the failed UAW effort at Volkswagen..and its subsequent appeal to the NLRB, unionization remains a hot button issue in Tennessee.
But a real battle is also heating up at medium and small companies around the south.

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