The UAW will apparently form a new local in Chattanooga, Tennessee to represent workers at Volkswagen’s assembly plant. But things will operate a little differently than in traditional union representation setups.
According to The Tennessean
Participation will be voluntary, and there will be no formal recognition of the union by the German automaker until a majority of its workers have joined, UAW officials have confirmed.
“We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees,” UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel of Ashland City said this morning.
“It’s dependent on the employees and what they want to do.”
The arrangement is a bold step towards gaining representation – as well as a UAW foothold in the South – even after the UAW lost a vote held by plant workers to decide on representation. But it makes one wonder why the vote was even held in the first place. To further make matters complicated, a local news outlet is reporting that the end goal of the arrangement would be the creation of a German-style works council.
An official announcement is likely to come this afternoon, but the timing of the move is close to VW’s decision on whether to build their new three-row crossover – a vital product for the American market – in Tennessee or in Mexico.
VW’s supervisory board, where labor organizations have a say in matters, does not want Chattanooga to get the new crossover without some kind of arrangement regarding organization of the plant’s labor – and IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, has deep ties to the UAW. VW conveniently left some wiggle room in the matter, and we may be seeing that manifesting in the “voluntary” union, which has the possibility of being recognized by VW, even though that doesn’t appear to be confirmed.
On the other hand, the Tennessee state government is offering significant incentives to Volkswagen, but is vehemently opposed to the presence of the UAW.
For some time, it seemed as if the UAW’s defeat, as well as the crossover’s production in Chattanooga, was a slam dunk. But now, things have gotten a little more complicated. We’ll have more as the story breaks.