The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Volkswagen of America must bargain with a group of maintenance workers represented by the UAW at the company’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The maintenance workers voted last December to join the UAW. It was the first time workers at a plant operated by a European or Asian automaker in the Southeastern U.S. voted to join the UAW. The union lost a plant-wide vote in Chattanooga in February 2014.
VOA, however, maintained the vote by the maintenance workers should be set aside because the bargaining unit would not represent all of the workers at Chattanooga plant and declined to bargain with the UAW on wages and benefits for the employees in the new unit.
In response to Volkswagen’s refusal to bargain with the maintenance workers, the UAW filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, noting that it has been a long accepted practice in the U.S. for unions to represent distinct groups of workers even though their co-workers may belong to a different union or to no union at all.
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The NLRB finally issued its ruling on the UAW’s complaint this week.
Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the International union’s Transnational Department, said the union was pleased with NLRB requiring Volkswagen to collectively bargain with its skilled trades employees:
“We’re pleased that the NLRB has ordered Volkswagen to bargain with UAW Local 42 as the representative of the skilled-trades employees in Chattanooga. This unanimous decision makes it clear that the company has been operating in violation of federal law by refusing to come to the bargaining table,” Casteel said.
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“Volkswagen’s illegal behavior is contrary to the company’s principles of social responsibility. Looking ahead: As Volkswagen slowly emerges from the global emissions scandal, the company also has an opportunity to improve employee relations in the U.S. We urge Volkswagen to accept the NLRB order and bargain with the local union at the earliest possible date,” Casteel said.
Volkswagen had no immediate response to the ruling, but the company can appeal the ruling to a U.S. Court of Appeals.
The ruling comes at a difficult time for Volkswagen, which is still dealing with the aftermath of the emission-cheating scandal, which has sunk the company’s sales in the U.S. and drained off billions of dollars to cover fines, settlements and other legal costs.
(To see more about the settlement between VW and its U.S. dealers, Click Here.)
At the same time, VW is also preparing the Chattanooga plant for the production of the Cross Blue, a utility vehicle that VOA officials have said it critical to rebuilding the company’s sales and the morale of dealers across the United States.