No, Volkswagen did not announce that it will pull out of Tennessee and close its billion-dollar automaking plant in Chattanooga. Those reports are based on a hoax.
National Report put up a parody post, quoting real statements from real people, but with a lead claiming Volkswagen decided to close down the Chattanooga plant. Within a week or so, it had 63,000 shares on Facebook.
I started seeing the reports on Twitter last week, but they’ve been buzzing around for a few a while, since the union vote at the Chattanooga VW plant. Here’s the earliest I found:
VW threatening to close plant after workers voted angst joining German-style workers council.
Union leaders in Europe, accustomed to good relationships with management and looking out for workers, announced they might oppose further expansion of VW in the American south without unionization — but that’s the closest real news comes to what “National Report” claims.
“Unfair labor praxis?” What sorts of clues must a parody site drop before people start seeing through the hoax? Check out the author’s bio-line, while you’re at it.
Could we hope for a little bit of skepticism? After the contentious, national headline-making union vote at the Chattanooga plant, wouldn’t it make sense that an announcement the plant would close, would also make headlines? But check the Chattanooga News-Free Press. Stories there are about moving on, in Chattanooga, after the VW vote.
- “Volkswagen faces UAW, SUV decisions,” on February 21
- “Volkswagen labor rep hits Chattanooga vote,” on February 20
- “Chattanooga VW workers reject UAW,” on February 14
Nothing about closing the plant, from the newspaper that would surely be all over such a story. Or, check Volkswagen’s corporate website in the U.S. — closing their only U.S. plant would merit some mention there, don’t you think? What do we see:
- Volkswagen Group today resolved to make a voluntary tender offer of SEK 200 (approx. €22.26) per share to the shareholders of Scania Aktiebolag (“Scania”) for all Scania A and Scania B shares
- At its meeting today, the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen Group appointed Andreas Renschler (55) as member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Commercial Vehicles effective February…
Feb 21, 2014 VOLKSWAGEN REPORTS SUCCESSFUL FISCAL YEAR 2013
- With sales revenue of EUR 197.0 billion (previous year: EUR 192.7 billion), the Group’s operating profit of EUR 11.7 billion (EUR 11.5 billion) exceeded the record prior-year figure.
- Volkswagen Chattanooga employees have voted in a secret ballot election against United Auto Workers (UAW) representation.
Nothing there. Google it, Bing! it, Yahoo! it, search on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll find repeats of the hoax story, but zero confirmation from any authoritative or official source, and no mentions on mainstream media who don’t deal in hoaxes. So, can we knock off the harmful hoax recirculation?
VW is in Chattanooga to stay. VW built a $1 billion dollar, energy-efficient, state-of-the-car-making-art plant to use U.S. parts to make Volkswagens for sale in the Americas. VW is proud of it: “First and only LEED Platinum certified Auto Plant worldwide. LEED Platinum certified Volkswagen Academy.” That’s not the sort of investment a company walks away from unless in extremis — and VW is doing okay.
VW may be troubled. Their kanben manufacturing methods require active participation of the workers, and generally such a system works better when the workers are organized. The Washington Post noted shortly before the vote:
If a majority of Volkswagen’s 1,570 hourly workers vote yes, it would mark the first time in nearly three decades of trying that the UAW has successfully organized a plant for a foreign brand in the United States. This time, the union has a powerful ally: Volkswagen itself, which is hoping the union will collaborate in a German-style “works council” and help manage plant operations.
Voting against a union, then, was a bit of a poke in the eye of management of Volkswagen in Chattanooga. But it was also a poke in the eye the United Auto Workers and unions in the U.S., and conservatives are not disinclined to take a shot at friends, or work against the interests of the U.S., if they can take a shot at unions. Tennessee conservatives like Sen. Bob Corker have sworn allegiance away from the U.S. already, promising never to increase taxes regardless how badly the nation might need it (consider how such a pledge would have crippled the U.S. in fighting either of the two world wars). So Republican elected officials let their hatred of unions overcome their love of economic development, Tennessee and the U.S. — and they interfered in the election trying to tilt it against the union, Volkswagen be damned.
But close the plant? No.
Where does such a wild, and inflammatory story come from?
We’ve discussed “National Report” hoaxes here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub before.
- “Another hoax suckering conservatives: No, the Navy Yard shooter was not identified as a registered Democrat“
- “No, November is not ‘Muslim Appreciation Month;’ it’s ‘America is Gullible Month’ and you’ve been nominated Grand Marshall of the parade“
This is just one more complete falsehood, designed to get people worked up unnecessarily and snare the unwary. National Report created the hoax almost whole cloth, duping many by offering real quotes from real people, which do not say what the headline claims.
Do false reports cause any damage? Sometimes. Consider this: Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker promised VW would announce plant expansion in Tennessee almost immediately, if the workers rejected the union. Oops. Hasn’t happened.
What else did Corker fib about? Why are so many people giving credence to National Report, an admitted fib site?
- “No sign of expansion yet at VW’s Chattanooga plant,” Nashville Tennessean, March 1, 2014
- “Politicians at the gate,” The Economist
- Daily Kos deleted a diary post based on the “National Report” parody
- What is bogus history? 7 warning signs, here.
- Washington Post’s WonkBlog explains why VW actually wanted the union to win the vote