Scary Chattanoogan Billboards: Swaying 86 People with Mystery Money & Veiled Threats

You too can become a ghost town!

You too can become a ghost town!

Click here to read...

Click here to read…

The plan was simple.  Just convince under a hundred people that Detroit was once again the bogeyman, just like in Robocop.

Yesterday in Tennessee, in a narrow vote swung by just 6%, the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize the Chattanooga Volkswagen workers fell short, 712-626.  The “yes” votes began to fade away in the final two weeks due to a barrage of billboards like the following…

Find the typo, win a prize.

Find the typo, win a prize.

Ironically, as seen in the above typoed billboard, there was not only the threat of liberals and Obama, it also mentions the dirty “politicans” who abandon their oaths of office to all their citizens and instead conduct business for the sake of their campaign benefactors.

But it’s okay if those non-liberal representatives choose to have “Big Government” step in during a private worker-management vote.  After all, if Volkswagen became unionized guess what might continue to happen all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps even hitting Arkansas and Wal-Mart?  There’s lots to fear in those unions, the creators of the 40-hour work-week, child labor laws, employee healthcare–to name a few evils.

UAW President Bob King sharply criticized Tennessee politicians who he said scared workers away from voting in favor of union representation. Going into the election, the UAW thought it had support from a majority of the more than 1,500 workers who had an opportunity to vote.

That support began to decline in recent days, mostly because of news conferences held by the state’s political leaders who warned that a vote in favor of the UAW would make the state less attractive to other manufacturers and could jeopardize Volkswagen’s plans to expand its factory there.  (source)

Thanks to the limitless, anonymous pocketbooks of donors protected by the Supreme Court it’s hard to find who’s paying for what.  And while his accuracy of “keeping your own healthcare” seems to have been incredibly poor, President Obama’s 2010 dressing down of the Supreme Court, following their decision on Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission is very prophetic as it has opened the floodgates for undisclosed financial millions pouring in from these unknown sources.

Fear is a wonderful tool; it can make you happy with your lesser evil.  “You’re just lucky you have a job!” was a frequent reply when I was picketing four years ago.  And that fear can be delivered by harmless sounding names as seen at the bottom of billboards above…””

That sounds nice and non-corporate, doesn’t it?  In fact, it almost sounds Marxist, like something you’d see hanging on a banner outside the Kremlin…

Papa Joe, anyone?

Papa Joe, anyone?

Let’s play “Follow the Mystery Money” as we did with the Michigan’s mysterious Cyberschools (link) and examine who actually paid for these billboards and ads.

According to the USA Today (link)…

The Center for Worker Freedom, which describes itself as a special project of Americans for Tax Reform — [Grover] Norquist’s flagship lobbying organization — is stepping up efforts “to warn the residents of Chattanooga about the terrible economic legacy and the left-wing political nature of the United Auto Workers,” said Matt Patterson, its executive director.

So if everything were truly above-board, the billboards ought to state…

“Paid for by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform

But it doesn’t.  Why not?  Fear continues as the citizens of Tennessee are faced with the the scary prospect of cannibalism sponsored by another foggy group,, who, according to their website, is “maintained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute,” a Libertarian think-tank founded by Fred L. Smith.


Again, you need to go to one website to get to another website to get to the founder.



No, that's not a union-label in the corner.

No, that’s not a union-label in the corner.

And to finalize the scary bedtime story, elected officials join in and raised the specter of VW being forced to leave Dodge City…

One of Tennessee’s two U.S. senators ramped up his anti-union rhetoric on Thursday in an attempt to sway workers at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga plant who are voting this week on representation by the United Auto Workers.

Republican Senator Bob Corker told Reuters on Thursday that he is “very certain that if the UAW is voted down,” the automaker will announce new investment in the plant “in the next couple weeks.” (link)

Bob Corker:  (implied)  I'm not saying anything bad is going to happen if you vote for a union, I just can't guarantee the safety of your family...

Bob Corker: (implied) I’m not saying anything bad is going to happen if you vote for a union, I just can’t guarantee the safety of your family…

Strange bedfellows with meddling senators and CEI, an organization that states in its bi-line above that it promotes “Limited Government.”

Not only, as the governor and senator earlier hinted that the incentives might be cut if VW’s workers vote for a union, there is also the promise of more gold if the union is voted down.

It’s tough enough to face the prospect of your employer leaving your state, but if promised more jobs (or more raises perhaps, the workers hope!) it’s not surprising that the 6% of intended voters were convinced to play it safe.

A favorite counter-point to any of the above is, “But the other side is just as bad!”  Granted there are lobbyists for both sides.  Granted, the UAW and any other union is not perfect.  There have been excesses.  But a few may argue that some governors and senators are also not perfect.  And to blame an entire city’s decline on a union–the same union that built that city and kept it strong for 75 years, seems a bit disingenuous.

But fact-checkers are few when fear is rampant.  And paying tons of quick cash for a few nearly-anonymous billboards is a good investment if swaying 86 people can save the South.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 6. Contact him at: He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kwteacher

Comments are closed.