Money Minute: VW Workers Weigh UAW Vote; HTC Heats Up Smartphone War

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This could turn out to be one of the most important weeks in a long, long time for the labor movement in the U.S.

Workers at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., will vote beginning Wednesday on whether to join the United Auto Workers union. But unlike other efforts to unionize at auto plants in Southern states, the company is endorsing the UAW effort. Volkswagen (VLKAY) successfully operates worker councils in Germany, and it wants the same thing here. Still, it's not a slam dunk, and a defeat would be a major setback to the union movement, and probably represent a nail in the coffin of organizing in any of the plants throughout the region.

Meanwhile, auto production in Australia is coming to a screeching halt.
Toyota (TM) is the latest to say it will end production Down Under. This follows similar moves by Ford (F) and General Motors (GM), all because of high production costs.

The latest volley in the smartphone war comes from the Taiwanese manufacturer HTC. The company, which had mostly made higher-end phones up until now, says it will soon launch a new model in the $150 to $200 range. Not that long ago, HTC was the leading seller of smartphones in the U.S., but it's been battered by fierce competition from Samsung, Apple (AAPL) and Google's (GOOG) Motorola Mobility line.

Meanwhile, the cost of mobile service plans could continue to drop. Internet-based service provider FreedomPop is offering an unlimited voice and data plan for less than $5 a month, far below the average price of about $85 a month. And USAToday reports the industry big boys -- Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T), T-Mobile US (TMUS) and Sprint (S) -- could be forced lower their prices.

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) are riding their first three-day winning streak this year after gaining 7 points Monday. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 22 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) added nearly 3 points.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.


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