Volkswagen is appealing the decision by the National Labor Relations Board that has cleared the way for a vote among workers at VW’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The workers voted for representation by the United Auto Workers, giving the UAW its first victory at southern auto plants. VW, however, has filed an appeal with the full National Labor Relations Board, arguing that that any union in Chattanooga should represent both skilled and production workers.
“As has always been the case, Volkswagen respects the right of our employees to decide the question of union representation. Nevertheless, we believe that a union of only maintenance employees fractures our workforce and does not take into account the overwhelming community of interest shared between our maintenance and production employees,” VW said in a statement.
“Therefore, as we indicated prior to the election, we are appealing to the NLRB to reconsider the decision to separate Volkswagen maintenance and production workers and to allow them to vote as one group on the matter of union representation,” the statement said.
However, the reality is that small groups of workers within larger installations with more employees are allowed to organize their own union under U.S. labor law. Legal precedent in this case appears to be on the side of the union. The UAW sought an election among employees in the skilled trades to get around the road block put up by VW’s management and anti-union groups in Tennessee, who are dead set against unions gaining a foothold among the Southern automakers.
The UAW also has accused Volkswagen of backtracking on previous commitments to negotiate in good faith. “The facts are: In spring 2014, Volkswagen committed to recognize a UAW local union as the representative of its members in order for the union and the company to enter into collective bargaining. The company did not honor that commitment and, as a result, employees have grown increasingly impatient and have decided to exercise their rights under the law,” the UAW noted in a statement after the NLRB said that the vote among the skilled trades could go ahead.
(UAW gains foothold in VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant. For more, Click Here.)
“We’re calling on Volkswagen to drop this appeal and instead refocus on the core values that made it a successful brand, including environmental sustainability and employee representation. Chattanooga is the company’s only plant in the world that does not have a seat on the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, and that needs to change if the plant is going to play a meaningful role in Volkswagen’s comeback story,” according to the statement.
If the full NLRB in Washington D.C. turns down Volkswagen’s appeal as expected, the UAW officials have indicated they will press for negotiations on a new contract. Negotiating a contract for the skilled trades would demonstrate to other Volkswagen employees the benefits of joining the union, noted Harley Shaiken of the University of California-Berkley.
“People want a voice. They want a voice,” said Norwood Jewel, the UAW vice president, noted during a conversation with reporters in Detroit where he predicted a union victory at Volkswagen.
The UAW, with help of the German metalworkers union, IG Metall, is also expected to press Volkswagen to accept the results of a “card check” that would give the union the right to represent all of the approximately, 1,300 production workers at the Chattanooga plant.
(Click Here for details pressure on VW from investors to weaken employee impact on management.)
The NLRB said 71% of employees voted for recognition by UAW Local 42. It was the first time workers at a factory in the Southern U.S. owned by a European or Asian carmaker have voted to join a union since the transplants moving to the U.S. in the 1980s.
“A key objective for our local union always has been moving toward collective bargaining for the purpose of reaching a multi-year contract between Volkswagen and employees in Chattanooga,” Mike Cantrell, president of UAW Local 42, said in a statement after the results were announced by the NLRB.
“We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining. We believe these paths will give all of us a voice at Volkswagen in due time,” Cantrell said.
So far, VW, which is under considerable pressure from Tennessee’s conservative Republican political establishment not to make any concessions to the UAW or IG Metall, has resisted the card check.
(To see more about the NLRB filing charges against Nissan, Click Here.)
The political establishment around Chattanooga and in Tennessee had been eager to secure the Volkswagen factory but they had never expected it would be non-union. They have attacked the union furiously and there Volkswagen has even granted partial recognition to an anti-union group of employees and company officials clearly are not interested in putting the Tennessee legislature promise of additional financial support at risk by being accused of folding under pressure by the UAW.