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UAW's Tennessee win fuels backers' hopes in the South, but some skeptics are unmoved

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The United Auto Workers just notched a historic victory in Tennessee, the union’s first major win since signing new contracts in Detroit as it shifts focus to the South. Some industry workers there feel more optimistic than ever, but others still aren’t ready to join up.


Friday’s landslide outcome at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, where 73% of workers who cast votes opted to unionize, followed two failed attempts and is the UAW’s first win at a foreign automaker in the South.


The breakthrough came months after strikes at the Big Three Detroit automakers — Ford, General Motors and Jeep maker Stellantis, all of which have long been unionized. Those walkouts led to contracts, ratified by 64% of voting union members, featuring pay hikes and better job security in an increasingly electrified auto industry.


The UAW is now targeting 13 nonunion automakers, with the next battle set for a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, that will vote on unionizing in mid-May.