As Volkswagen gears up for a decision on expanding their Chattanooga factory, a member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board told the Handlesblatt that any new product would be contingent on VW adopting a works council (explanation by our own veteran of Volkswagen BS here) for the plant.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press quotes board member Stephan Wolf as stating
“We will only agree to an expansion of the site or any other model contract when it is clear how to proceed with the employees’ representatives in the United States,”
At stake is a possible new crossover that could be built there or in a Mexican facility. Wolf, a labor leader, is Deputy Chairman of the General and Group Works Councils of Volkswagen AG, and a member of the all-important Supervisory Board, which is responsible for approving key corporate decisions. The remarks come on the heels of an endorsement of the works council from UAW head Bob King, who told Automotive News
“If I was a worker, if I was a member of the Chattanooga community, and I wanted to have the best chance of getting new investment and new product, I would want a voice on the world employee council,” King said. “I would want somebody there representing the interests of Chattanooga. I wouldn’t want a decision made where every other plant in the world has representation there, and I don’t have somebody speaking up for me.”
Both pro and anti union camps have a lot at stake; for VW’s German labor leaders fear that a non-unionized plant threatens to undermine their powerful organizations in Germany and other locales. The unions enjoy as many as 50 percent of the supervisory board seats according to German law, and can influence who holds top executive posts. That makes Wolf’s remarks all the more credible.
On the other hand, Tennessee politicians fear that a union will hurt their own image of being a “right to work” state where companies can set up shop away from the influence of organized labor. Further complicating matters is a law barring employers from starting their own unions. If a works council were to go through, workers at Chattanooga would have to be represented by the UAW – something that would be mutually beneficial to both the UAW and IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union.