The United Auto Workers, in move certain to draw fire from anti-union forces, is preparing for another election at Volkswagen of America’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
UAW Local 42 today filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board asking for the board to supervise a representation election for employees in the maintenance, or skilled trades, unit of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.
The maintenance unit is smaller than the broad unit where the unit sought an election in February, 2014 and ultimately lost in a closely fought election 55% to 45%.
“A key objective for our local union always has been, and still is, moving toward collective bargaining for the purpose of reaching a multi-year contract between Volkswagen and employees in Chattanooga,” said Mike Cantrell, president of Local 42, which the union set up in June 2014. “We support our colleagues in the skilled trades as they move toward formal recognition of their unit.”
Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining. The NLRB describes collective bargaining as an effort between an employer and employees to “bargain in good faith about wages, hours, vacation time, insurance, safety practices and other subjects.”
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In December 2014, Local 42 secured limited considerations under Volkswagen’s Community Organization Engagement policy. Under the policy, which is unique to the company’s Chattanooga facility, the local union meets regularly with plant managers regarding matters of concern to employees such as shift scheduling. Earlier this month, the company re-verified Local 42’s membership at the highest level under the policy.
Cantrell said Local 42 has strong support among blue-collar workers in the Chattanooga plant — the only Volkswagen facility in the world that remains unrepresented on the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, the influential body of Volkswagen employee leaders from around the world.
“Volkswagen’s policy in Chattanooga was a gesture and our local union has engaged accordingly,” said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW International union and director of the union’s Transnational Department. “At the end of the day, the policy cannot be a substitute for meaningful employee representation and co-determination with management.”
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Casteel added: “The international union will provide ongoing technical assistance to the local union as it strives toward collective bargaining and its rightful seat on the Global Group Works Council.”
Casteel and Cantrell both emphasized that the timing of the skilled trades filing with the NLRB is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
“We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining,” Cantrell said. “We have been considering this option for some time. All options have been, and will remain, on the table.”
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However, with the leadership of Volkswagen of America in disarray because of the scandal and VWs management looking to avoid confrontation with German union’s as the company attempt to regain its equilibrium in the wake of the emission scandal.