At the same time that the United Auto Works is trying to organize workers at Volkswagen’s Tennessee operations, using the model of German labor union IG Metall’s close relationship with the automaker in Germany, a number of workers at the Tennessee plant claim the UAW has used misleading tactics as it tries to organize the facility.
The push to organize VW’s U.S. assembly plant came about after the UAW failed to organize South Korean and Japanese owned plants in the United States. The union now sees VW and its German labor model as the best chance to expand its influence into foreign owned automakers operating facilities in the United States. Half of VW’s supervisory board represents IG Metall. VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee is the only one of VW’s fully owned plants around the world that does not have worker representation. The UAW hopes that peculiarity will end.]
The UAW believes it has enough support from VW’s Chattanooga workers to seek recognition by the automaker. The UAW says a majority of the 1,567 production and maintenance workers at VW’s Chattanooga plant have signed cards supporting the union. The autoworkers’ union hopes to first set up a German style works council, which gives workers a say in plant and company operations.Volkswagen, though, has not indicated if it will recognize the UAW as its workers’ representatives. Because a works council might be considered an illegal “company union”, such an organization would have to be associated with an independent labor union, in this case presumably the UAW.
UAW president Bob King wants VW to exercise its option to simply recognize the UAW to represent the workers, avoiding a secret ballot election. One reason why the UAW may not favor an employee vote is that they company has not always been able to convert signed union preference cards into actual votes. The union claims those switched opinions are the result of workers being deliberately mislead by advertising that targeted them.
At the same time, the UAW itself is the target of complaints by Chattanooga workers who claim they were misled by the union during its organizing attempts at the plant. The National Right to Work Foundation filed the complaints with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of eight workers at the factory.
The union says a majority of the plant’s 2,700 workers have signed cards expressing interest in the UAW. That usually an early step in establishing a collective bargaining unit.
The eight complainants say that they were told that signing a card indicated support for a secret-ballot election, not support for the UAW. They also contend that union officials made it difficult for them to rescind their signature.
“This case underscores how card check unionization schemes make it ‘easy to check in, but impossible to check out,’” said Mark Mix, president of the right to work foundation, in a statement.