US Volkswagen workers set to vote on union representation

The United Auto Workers in the USA have announced they have reached an agreement with Volkswagen in the USA that will give the workforce in Chatanooga a vote on union representation at the plant.

“We have reached an agreement with VWGOA that will allow workers to express their opinion and decide on the question of union representation in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation,” said UAW Region 8 Director of Organising Gary Casteel.  “The UAW commends the company and the Global Works Council for recognising global human rights and worker rights in Tennessee.”

Volkswagen workers at the Chatanooga facility will vote in ballot conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) between February 12th and 14th.  The majority of the workforce have already signed union cards.

The NLRB set the election as a result of an agreement reached between Volkswagen Group of America (VWGOA) and the UAW.

The Chattanooga workers will decide whether the UAW can move forward with a new collaborative approach with VWGOA based on the principles of co-determination that would include the formation of a German style works council in Chattanooga.

If they do say yes this would be the first works council established in the United States.

Bob King, President of the United Autoworkers

Bob King, President of the United Autoworkers

“Volkswagen is known globally for its system of cooperation with unions and works councils,” said UAW President Bob King. “The UAW seeks to partner with VWGOA and a works council to set a new standard in the U.S. for innovative labor-management relations that benefits the company, the entire workforce, shareholders and the community. The historic success of the works council model is in line with the UAW’s successful partnerships with the domestic automakers and its vision of the 21st century union.” 

Chattanooga is the only major VWGOA assembly facility without union representation. With a works council, the Chattanooga plant would have a seat at the VW Global Group Works Council.

“With a local works council, workers would have a voice they can use to make Volkswagen stronger; in safety, job security and efficiency,” said Jonathan Walden, Volkswagen paint technician. “Global representation means Chattanooga workers may have a strong voice in seeking new products and bringing more jobs to Tennessee.”

The decision to go forward with a ballot to set up a German style works council is highly significant and has been done in the face of fierce anti-union activity from Republican politicians, assorted right wing campaigners and ‘business groups’ who have gone into a frenzy to try to stop the organisation of plant.

Those intervening to stop union organization include Republicans, Gov. Bill Haslam and Senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, who say a UAW deal would harm the plant’s competitiveness and the state’s “business climate” –  (read: an non union state).

Also wading in were a ‘business-backed group’ who spent money on billboard adverts declaring, “Auto Unions Ate Detroit. Next Meal: Chattanooga”

Another right wing anti-union outfit called the ‘National Right To Work Committee’, tried to bring legal challenges against the UAW and one Grover Norquist, described as an ‘anti-tax crusader’, has set up a group, the “Center For Worker Freedom”, to try to prevent the organization of the plant.

The UAW in a press release stated: “Co-determination is a key factor in Volkswagen’s success.  Volkswagen has extensive experience with union representation and is globally recognised as being in the forefront of respecting the basic human rights of workers to organise and collectively bargain. Volkswagen’s Global Charter on Labor Relations and Social Charter go beyond international labor standards, establishing principles governing labor relations and social matters, even establishing principles on issues like the use of temporary workers”.

Unions will be watching run up to the ballot and the conduct of the ballot especially for anti-union activity, scare tactics, anti-union advertising and intimidation by right wingers.

In the southern states there are two other German owned plants the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama and the BMW plant in South Carolina.

Good luck to the UAW and its members in Chatanooga!

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