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The UAW's decade-long fight to form a union at VW's Chattanooga plant

Union membership in the U.S. has been declining for decades. But, in 2022, support for unions among Americans was the highest it's been in decades. This dissonance is due, in part, to the difficulties of one important phase in the life cycle of a union: setting up a union in the first place. One place where that has been particularly clear is at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The UAW's decade-long fight to form a union at VW's Chattanooga plant

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United Auto Workers members attend a solidarity rally as the UAW strikes the Big Three automakers on Sept. 15 in Detroit. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images hide caption

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UAW President Shawn Fain joins union members at a rally at the UAW Local 551 hall on the South Side in Chicago on Oct. 7, 2023. Fain said on Friday the union will now be ready to expand its strike at any time, calling it a "new phase" in its fight against the Big Three automakers. Jim Vondruska/Getty Images hide caption

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Frontline health care workers hold a demonstration outside Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on September 4. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide caption

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Damian Dovarganes/AP

75,000 Kaiser nurses, pharmacists and other workers have walked off the job

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UAW workers picket outside of the Stellantis Mopar parts facility in Naperville, Ill., on Sept. 22, 2023. The union is expanding its strike against GM and Stellantis citing the lack of progress in talks for a new contract. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

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The UAW's hard bargain in ongoing negotiations with the Big Three automakers is being driven by concessions the union made in 2007. Auto workers have felt the impact of those concessions to this day. Sarah Rice/Getty Images hide caption

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United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain speaks outside the UAW Local 900 headquarters across the street from the Ford Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. The union announced the start of a strike at three factories just after midnight on Friday. Matthew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Matthew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images

How Shawn Fain, an unlikely and outspoken president, led the UAW to strike

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Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union march through the streets of downtown Detroit following a rally on the first day of the UAW strike in Detroit on Friday. Workers at the "Big Three" U.S. auto manufacturers went on strike on Sept. 15. Mathew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Mathew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images

In this Wednesday, May 8, 2013 photo, Jeff Caldwell, 29, a chassis assembly line supervisor, monitors the assembly line at the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

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Paul Sancya/AP

A United Auto Workers member walks in the Labor Day parade in Detroit on Sept. 4, 2023. The UAW is on the verge of a historic strike unless it can clinch a deal with the Big Three automakers by a deadline on midnight. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

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United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain talks with the news media before marching in the Detroit Labor Day Parade on September 4, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images hide caption

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Why a 4-day workweek is on the table for autoworkers

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Autoworker Kevin Winston, left, talks with United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain outside the General Motors Factory Zero plant in Hamtramck, Mich., on July 12. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

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In a frame grab from video, United Auto Workers presidential candidate Shawn Fain is interviewed, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Detroit. The vote count in the election to decide the United Auto Workers' top leader should come to an end Thursday. Challenger Fain leads incumbent Ray Curry, but they're still counting challenged ballots that could change the outcome. Mike Householder/AP hide caption

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Mike Householder/AP
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

What's really going on with unions

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Gary Jones, former president of the United Auto Workers, has admitted he conspired to embezzle more than $1 million out of dues paid by union members. Carlos Osorio/AP hide caption

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Carlos Osorio/AP

Former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones speaks during the opening of contract talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Auburn Hills, Mich., in July 2019. Jones resigned Wednesday. Paul Sancya/AP hide caption

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Workers assemble engines along the line at a General Motors plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. A nationwide strike by the United Automobile Workers at GM plants didn't hurt U.S. job growth in October. Harrison McClary/Reuters hide caption

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Harrison McClary/Reuters

Job Market Resilient In October Despite GM Strike, Beating Expectations

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A member of the United Auto Workers pickets earlier this month outside a General Motors facility in Langhorne, Pa. On Friday the union's members voted to ratify a tentative deal with the automaker, bringing an end to a national strike that lasted 40 days. Matt Rourke/AP hide caption

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Matt Rourke/AP