NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The union vote scheduled for Wednesday at Volkswagen's giant auto plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., is turning the usual scenario of labor vs. management on its head.
Typically, United Auto Worker campaigns in the South ride headfirst into a concerted effort by automakers to oppose any and all unionization. Corporate opposition generally combines with firm pronouncements by local politicians and chambers of commerce officials to defeat calls for a union.
That's what happened at Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tenn. in 1989 and again in 2001 as well as its factory in Canton, Miss., in 2005 and 2007. In the 35 years since foreign-owned automakers began building factories in the South, the companies, combined with local political and business leaders, have helped to defeat UAW organizing drives.
But the vote Wednesday at VW's plant in Chattanooga is proving to be quite different.
Executives at Volkswagen, the world's third-largest automaker behind Toyota (TM) and GM (GM), have conspicuously refrained from the usual chorus of anti-union diatribes, Detroit putdowns and recollections of the bad old days when the Big Three did make lousy cars, and labor relations -- a two-sided dysfunction -- were nothing short of terrible.
Bernd Osterloh, Volkswagen's works council chief, said last month in Wolfsburg, Germany, that he would like to see Chattanooga's workers accept a German-style works council which represents both assembly line workers and management.
Osterloh called the day-to-day management of the Chattanooga facility a "disaster," a few weeks after its U.S. divisional chief Jonathan Browning was replaced by Michael Horn after sales of its midsize Passat declined 6.3% last year.