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UAW Withdraws Appeal of VW Chattanooga Plant Vote

Major setback for union’s Southern organizing drive.

by on Apr.22, 2014

UAW President Bob King.

The United Auto Workers Union has withdrawn its objections to the results of the in February’s representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The union had narrowly lost a vote it fully expected to win and blamed the defeat on political interference by Republicans in Tennessee.  Over the years, the UAW has lost a series of representation elections in the Southern United States, where  aversion to unions is strong, so the defeat in Chattanooga came as a major setback to its so far unsuccessful bid to organize foreign-owned, so-called transplant, assembly lines.

Beyond the Headlines!

The union decision to withdraw  its protest to the National Labor Relations Board opens the door  for the UAW to call for another election at the Chattanooga plant early next year. The union made it plain in its statement that it will continue its campaign to bring VW workers in Chattanooga into the UAW.

Art Wheaton, a labor expert at Cornell University’s school of industrial relations, said the decision actually could help the union cause in Chattanooga.

“This decision by the UAW may benefit the workers of VW in the long run,” he said. “Dropping the appeal allows the clock towards a new union election to begin. Had the UAW continued the legal appeals it could have been years before a new union election could be held.

“It also gives the UAW and Volkswagen workers time to see what the congressional investigation uncovers,” Wheaton added. “The National Labor Relations Board case was always a difficult case with no clear winner with political influence increasing the complexity.”

UAW President Bob King said in a statement the union elected to withdraw its objections because the National Labor Relations Board process has become completely dysfunctional. The union has accused Tennessee governor Bill Haslam and Republican Senator Bob Corker, fearing a union victory, of setting out to sabotage the Volkswagen vote.

(Toyota workers in Canada may join union. Click Here for the latest.)

UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s Southern region, echoed that the UAW’s focus is advocating for Volkswagen to create more jobs in Tennessee by adding a new SUV line at the Chattanooga plant. The Haslam administration in August offered nearly $300 million in incentives to bring the new SUV to Chattanooga, but attempted to make the investment contingent on whether the Chattanooga plant is organized. The Haslam administration’s contingency is contrary to Volkswagen’s successful business model, which is premised on worker representation.


“The UAW wants to help create quality jobs and build world-class products for American consumers,” Casteel said. “With this in mind, we urge Gov. Haslam to immediately extend the incentives that previously were offered to Volkswagen for this new SUV line, and do so unconditionally.”

King said the UAW has accomplished a major goal with its election objections. “The UAW’s objections informed the public about the unprecedented interference by anti-labor politicians and third parties who want to prevent workers from exercising their democratic right to choose union representation,” he said.

King also said that outdated federal laws governing the NLRB never contemplated the level of extreme intimidation and interference that occurred in Chattanooga

For its part, VW has said nothing about the union appeal.  However, the plant’s manager, who had launched the factory, was recently replaced and the company has held off making  a decision on where to build the new CrossBlue utility vehicle, partly because of objections from the German Metalworkers union, IG Metal, which had supported the UAW unionization effort.

(Tennessee’s anti-union approach may cost plant new products, jobs. Click Here for the story.)

If the company goes ahead with building Cross Blue in Chattanooga, the UAW may be able to claim that it helped in persuading VW to bring the project to Tennessee through its close ties to the German metalworkers union, which is putting more pressure on German companies to ignore the anti-union culture in the South.

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