Reuters is reporting that in an interview with the German Handelsblatt newspaper, United Auto Workers president Bob King said that a majority of workers at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Chattanooga,Tennessee have signed cards supporting the UAW in the creation of a German-style works council at the factory. “Yes, we have a majority,” UAW President Bob King said.
The UAW leader said that more than 50% of the 2,415 employees at the factory have signed union cards and registered as future union members. Volkswagen declined to comment but the VW board member in charge of human relations, Horst Neumann, told Reuters at a panel discussion in Germany that included automobile executives and labor leaders, “I find it very depressing how deeply divided the [United States] is on the issue of labor unions. Had they been here to listen to the roundtable discussion they would have seen that we work together — it’s a model for success,” said Neumann, who represents the IG Metall labor union on VW’s board of directors.
UAW’s regional director for the UAW responsible for Tennessee, Gary Casteel, told the Associated Press that the signed cards include a statement about wanting to join VW’s global works council and supporting cooperative and collaborative relations with the company, and that according to U.S. labor law they are as legally binding as a ballot election. The company does have to recognize the signed cards, but they do have the option of recognizing the union or asking for a secret ballot election for the employees.
If the UAW is certified at the VW plant, it would be the first automotive “transplant” in the southern United States to have union representation. Foreign companies have opened many of their U.S. facilities in the South. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. does operate a plant in Normal, Ill., that is represented by the UAW. That’s currently the only foreign owned car factory in the U.S. with UAW representation.