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UAW Raises VW Chattanooga Membership to 55 Percent

Union making inroads to gain more influence.

by on Apr.30, 2015

An employee at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant signs on the dotted line allowing the UAW to represent her. (Photo credit: UAW)

The United Auto Workers moved another step closer to its goal of organizing workers at the Volkswagen of America assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The UAW said in a new filing with the U.S. Department of Labor that 816 employees have now voluntarily joined the union. The 816 represent about 55% of the plant’s blue-collar. The filing, coupled with the upheaval on the VW’s board of supervisors, increases the chances the automaker will raise its level of recognition of the UAW contingent at the plant.

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Berthold Huber, the new chairman of VW Supervisory Board, is a lifelong trade union activist who actively supported the UAW during its recognition election last year. The election ended in a narrow defeat for the UAW, which since then has continued its organizing drive with the assistance of Huber and other German union leaders.

Huber, who supported VW Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn during a bitter showdown earlier with former supervisory board chairman of Ferdinand Piech. It is assumed that part of the price Winterkorn agreed to pay for the Huber’s support was the complete recognition of the UAW in Chattanooga.

VWOA had already quietly replaced anti-union plant managers at the VW factory in Chattanooga, which is set to expand to build the utility vehicle. The UAW would prefer to lock down a new labor pact with VWOA before the company starts hiring workers to build the new vehicle due on the market in 2017.

The state of Tennessee’s conservative political establishment fought to prevent the UAW from gaining a foothold in Tennessee. From the governor, Republican Bill Haslam, on down, Tennessee officials thought VW had agreed that the Chattanooga plant would remain non-union like other factories in the South built by Asian and European manufacturers.

(UAW adds 12,000 members in 2014. For more, Click Here.)

But the governor and other political figures failed to appreciate the depth of union influence inside VW’s complicated and sprawling management structure.

(Click Here for details the UAW’s readying its contract demands in Detroit.)

The UAW last year narrowly lost a union vote at the Chattanooga plant that featured heavy campaigning by anti-union Republicans like U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. Huber wrote workers at the plant before the vote urging them to support the UAW.

(To see more about Ford cutting a shift and 700 jobs in Michigan, Click Here.)

The decision to build the new SUV followed months of political tension stemming from Volkswagen’s labor-friendly corporate culture coming into the political crosshairs of Republicans who fear a UAW foothold among foreign automakers would make the region less competitive to future investment.

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3 Responses to “UAW Raises VW Chattanooga Membership to 55 Percent”

  1. Jorge says:

    It’s simple…if the companies treat the workers fairly, a union is not necessary. If the workers however feel the company isn’t being fair then they will bring in a union to balance the negotiations. When either side enjoys too much power there are inequities and problems.

    The politicians don’t care about the workers, all they care about is getting re-elected and how much they can obtain in kickbacks.

  2. Creature says:

    Companies have never ‘treated’ employees fairly. The wage stagnation in the US, in all industries verifies that. Organising to protect worker rights, not just wages, but safety, fairness and benefits, has brought any developed nation to prosperity- shared by the workers and the companies. The decline in union membership corresponds with the decline in the middle class in the US. German industries, particularly the auto business, have had union participation in management decisions for some time, and it has not brought them any real deterioration. VW is poised to become the largest auto maker in the world. That has come with the help of their relationship with organised labour.

  3. Rt says:

    I have to agree with “at.” This might sound trite, but you never need a union until you need a union. Some employers are fair, and some are not. VW likes the idea of discussions with a work council, in this country tied to yhe formation of a union. I see nothing but good results, and the politicians of Tennessee and monied outside interests headed by Grover Norquist needs to stay the heck out of this.