By on August 18, 2014

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Despite losing a vote on organizing workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, the UAW could end up representing Volkswagen workers through its newly formed Local 42, with the end goal being the establishment of a works council at Chattanooga.

Local 42 was formed by the UAW as a voluntary union that workers could join. Representation for the workers would only come from a majority of them joining Local 42.

Now, Reuters is reporting that the UAW appears to be close to hitting the majority threshold needed for representing workers at Chattanooga, though the UAW wouldn’t give specific numbers. Also unclear was whether the UAW would be recognized as the exclusive bargaining unit for Chattanooga workers.

UAW secretary-treasurer Gary Casteel told Reuters that the two entities “have a consensus” on whether the UAW could exclusively represent workers, but a little reported development is likely to ensure that this goes through. Bernd Osterloh, VW’s global works council chief, was appointed to VW of America’s board of directors just over one month ago. Osterloh has been a major player in increasing cooperation between the UAW and IG Metall, Germany’s largest labor union, and has been fond of meddling in affairs at Chattanooga.

The establishment of a works council was previously held as a condition of VW’s supervisory board – which includes labor leaders and representation – approving the upcoming three-row crossover for production at Chattanooga. And for a works council to happen, workers need union representation. Who better to fill that role than the UAW?

 

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51 Comments on “How The UAW Could End Up Representing Volkswagen Workers...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Having owned German “prestige” cars, I already have sufficient reasons to never touch them again.

    Now, the UAW has given me sufficient reason to never own a VW. Too bad, I was thinking of giving Germany one last chance…but why take UAW “quality assembly” piled on top of questionable engineering and reliability?

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      DA Coyote,
      Since german seems out for you and the UAW is a non starter , where will your next ride come from, I am assuming either Japan or Volvo??

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        There are a lot of people (in America) who feel the way Da Coyote feels about German engineering AND the UAW, separately and collectively.

        Personally, I don’t care how much the ad-people hype the VW cars, my experience with VW was less than stellar and my choice in today’s automotive world would be T O Y O T A!

        I converted in 2008, and I’m never going back to GM or Ford.

        • 0 avatar
          tuffjuff

          I’m surprised HDC would be interested in a Toyota, of all things.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            @tuffjuff,” I’m surprised HDC would be interested in a Toyota, of all things.”

            It wasn’t always that way. Prior to 2008 I drove GM and Ford, bought new, exclusively, and didn’t want any part of those little rice grinders.

            But all that changed after I bought that 2008 Japan-built Highlander. It’s been such a great, trouble-free product that I stand in awe of it, rather than the “Awwww Sh!t” experiences with my GM and Ford products of the past.

          • 0 avatar
            tuffjuff

            @HDC

            I’ve owned both modern Ford and modern GM without issue, although I could understand why nearly THIRTY MILLION vehicles recalled could scare one away from buying GM.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            @tuffjuff, I think what exacerbated my experiences with Ford and GM products that I owned in the past was that they seemed to let me down at a time when I could least afford it.

            And being an enlisted guy I never had enough money to make it to the end of the month, much less buying car parts for unanticipated and unexpected car repairs.

            The cars ran most of the time, but they did break more often than I expected.

            When I was in Germany for those eight years ’72-80, my second job was managing the Auto Hobby Shop on the Base at night. So I had a great place to make repairs and all the tools to make the repairs with. My ’72 Olds Custom Cruiser was in there a lot!

            Plus we had at least one other car to get around in, a Simca, a VW Bug or an Opel Ambassador, or whatever, and I had my motorcycle.

            It was the time I needed to fix what was broken that I was chronically short of. There was work during the day in my Air Force job, and then managing the Auto Hobby Shop at night, helping GIs to keep their rides running.

            When we got back to the States in 1980, things became a little tighter since my wife and I needed dependable transportation. We each had lots of things to do and even more places to go, separately. She was studying for her Bachelor’s Degree, and I was chasing an MBA.

            We had three, four cars available to us at all times while we lived on the air base, in case one or more would quit running or be otherwise unsafe for the long trips through the desert.

            Then the kids grew up and needed wheels of their own, for school, for part-time jobs, etc.

            By then we had six or seven cars available to all of us. They all needed attention, but none of the foreign brand used cars we bought off the Lemon Lot on the Base ever crapped out on us. Yup, surprised me too! And we drove the p!ss out of them.

            I always expected the other shoe to drop, and I never had enough money to have someone else fix what needed fixing on my cars and trucks.

            After 1980, with my MBA studies, and helping Federico’s dad built our new home in the desert, transportation was crucial and time to fix broken cars was in short supply.

            I was the same way when we bought the Highlander, and it surprised us by not breaking down, or making funny noises, or doing any of the other things the cars and trucks did to let us know they needed fixing, you know like leaving a puddle of engine oil, or antifreeze coolant, or transmission fluid in a place where you could not miss it.

            But we survived. I survived and I don’t want to go back there again no matter how often the Buy American fanboys tell us all how great Ford and GM cars these days. They can keep them — no need to reserve one for me; leaves more for them.

            By no means was I the Lone Ranger experiencing all these maladies with Ford and GM products. Lots of GIs at the Auto Hobby Shop tinkering away replacing what needed fixing on their out-of-warranty Ford and GM cars.

            I’m too old for all that crap now. I want an appliance. And if I can swing it, I only want to keep it for the duration of the factory warranty, and then trade it for something new.

            I’ll implement that strategy when we trade my wife’s 2012 Grand Cherokee in on that 2015 Sequoia. Ought to be downright interesting……

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Long ago, I once bought a Westmoreland/UAW GTI.

      Everything that was under the assembly workers’ control was absolutely perfect. Body panels were in absolute alignment. Paint was flawlessly applied. The car steered true. There were no rattles or squeaks. Fit and finish were free of fault. Drivability was perfect.

      In my subsequent 3-1/2 years of ownership, every imaginable component of the car that could have been sourced from a third-party U.S. supplier under VWOA management’s supervision failed. A thermostat quit, disabling the A/C on the first hot day. A strut failed and pounded out the speaker shelf from beneath. Trim caps popped off left and right to reveal interior screws. The speedometer quit. A steel bracket under the driver’s seat snapped as I hopped into the car and left me hobby-horsing as the seat bounced comically up and down. The driver’s seat cloth wore through on the driver’s side bolster. The usual VW heater core failure left the windshield steamed up with what smelled like overripe maple syrup. Finally, one day the car was virtually undrivable with uncontrollable surging between sudden acceleration and no power at all. When I discovered the culprit was a snapped screw that allowed the distributor cap to slosh around loosely in its mount, continuously changing the car’s timing, I’d had enough.

      People who either don’t know or don’t want to know would hear “unreliable VW built by union workers” and reflexively conclude the problems with my car were union workers’ fault. People interested enough in cars and carmaking to read this board know better. One car, but just maybe a microcosm of VW’s long-standing quality problems.

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        and to be fair 30 years ago, I think 75 % of anything made at a UAW plant was crap, big three or VW PA

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        And here’s my anecdotal story about a Westmoreland-built 1983 Rabbit GTI that I bought new and drove every single day for ten years straight. It had ONE problem in that decade, and that was the alternator that failed without any warning eight years into the ownership experience. 100,000 miles later it still had the original clutch and was running like a top when I sold it.

        But geez tonycd, that was 30 years ago. I keep repeating this on VW threads on TTAC, but people seemed to have been so wronged by the brand in the past that they feel compelled to bring up their horror stories again and again. If you look at the aggregate statistics, VW as a brand has been steadily improving in long-term reliability since the disastrous Mk IV era of the early 2000s. JD Powers, Consumer Reports, and True Delta all confirm this, but that can’t stop the anecdotal tales and the dire warnings at “all German cars — particularly VWs — blow up after the warranty expires!” Some do, to be sure. But the chances of that occurring have diminished significantly over the past 30 years.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheatridger

          Interesting, but useless information. How can one man’s experience, or even scads of carefully collected statistics, speak against one of TTAC’s favorite memes: the self-destructing VW? I checked these comments only to see how many posts it would take for someone, who never intends to buy a VW, to pipe up and pledge never to buy a union-built VW. It took only one post, and the rest is just an echo chamber. So, nothing to see here, just move on. If your VW will move, that is. Mine do, both of them, with great vigor and dependability, but no one here wants to hear about that!

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          You’re right, LeeK. VW reliability has improved enormously, although it’s done so against a backdrop of massive industry-wide improvement that’s still left it behind the curve. (And I’m still suspicious of the LONG-TERM reliability of all German cars – I still think they’re overly complex and that their reliability beyond the warranty is not really a priority in the eyes of their makers.)

          However, my point in this case was more about this particular UAW story than about Volkswagen quality generally. My car was just one data point, and a distant one at that. It was more an example of how management affects automotive quality perhaps even more than the line workers assembling the parts and subsystems do. There’s an over-eagerness by some people to blame the UAW for everything from ebola to acid rain, and my comment was aimed mostly at that.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      A “voluntary” UAW local has no more power over the operation of a plant, hiring, standards, etc. than the local Elks club. Does a quality worker magically become an idiot because they decided to sign up for the UAW? (An organization they can leave at any time that cannot strike or form any sort of binding collective bargaining agreement.)

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Just for the record the UAW makes the majority of cars on the road in America and also make the top selling vehicles in the US, 3 of the top 5 selling models, 4 of the top 10 selling models. In fact the majority of the models sold in the top 10 are made by union workers, whether they are UAW, Unifor, or the Japanese Unions. Only a few transplant non-union plants make some of the same cars that Japanese unions make for the home market.

      So can we put the ‘unions don’t make good cars’ meme to rest? It’s a fundamentally stupid and ignorant argument.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m not disagreeing with your basic point, however two of the five are assembled in both the US and Mexico, and one of those is know to be heavy in Mexican assembly.

        #1 Ford F-Series 429,065 427,935 0.3% 63,240 60,449 4.6%
        #2 Chevrolet Silverado 282,776 284,666 -0.7% 42,097 42,080 0.1%
        #3 Toyota Camry 262,428 242,406 8.3% 39,888 34,780 14.7%
        #4 Ram P/U 239,481 201,633 18.8% 35,621 31,314 13.8%
        #5 Honda Accord 220,351 218,367 0.9% 35,073 31,507 11.3%

        http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2014/08/usa-auto-sales-rankings-by-make-model-july-2014-ytd-sales-figures.html

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          Does it really matter? Are you going to try and argue that there are even remotely serious build issues with any of those 3 as to be definable?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I don’t know enough about trucks in general to make an argument one way or another, was merely adding facts.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    It seems VW needs / wants a work council and one way or the other they will get one, if that means local 42 /UAW so be it, the workers already voted no but it seems they will have someone looking out for their interest one way or another. Let’s hope there is a opt out after 5 years if things do not go the workers way, I am sure the UAW would have no issue with that, or maybe only the workers who revote for a local pays dues and those who are happy with things now will not have to pay in.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      In fairness, it should be noted that “the workers already voted no” under heavy pressure from politicians who interposed themselves into the process and threatened (possibly illegally) to block the addition of future jobs to the plant unless there was a No vote.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        As well in fairness, they were also subjected to one internally pushed means of exclusvive propaganda, home vists, etc.

        However, if paying dues and allowing representation is voluntary, the taint is less than not having a choice.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Private sector unions tend to be a reaction to bad management; if a majority of VW workers believe that they need to join the UAW that says more about VW Chattanooga management than it does the workers. If factory managers are treating their workers fairly and with respect there is little incentive for workers to pay union dues and put up with the BS that comes with an adversarial relationship.

    As a former unionized factory worker I’ve been there, done that. I just got done reading “A Savage Factory” which is a great reminder of how dysfunctional factory environments can become.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      My guess would be that the VW plant in TN is being pressured by the German head office and German union to have union representation.

      If VW-TN is allowed to remain “Right-to-Work” then it sets a bad precedence for the union in Germany, because there really is no need for them there either.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Wise management would never tell a primary shareholder that they are unnecessary.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        “If VW-TN is allowed to remain “Right-to-Work” then it sets a bad precedence for the union in Germany, because there really is no need for them there either.”

        Apparently the shared conclusion of VW workers and management in Germany is that they feel otherwise.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Yup! It must have been quite a shock to the home boys in Germany to have those stupid Americans vote down union representation at VW-TN.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          Yes, voting against one’s own economic self-interest is a trait peculiar to America these days.

          Unless you factor in the economic self-interest of responding to direct threats against one’s job, of course.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @ Toad.. Excellent book, if you havn’t already, read “Rivet Head”.

      If your a Corvette fan, read “No Time to Cry” Will Cooksey is not exactly a great writer. But he has lived the life.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        “Rivet Head” is next on my list. “A Savage Factory” made my teeth grind enough that I’m not sure I am ready to double down on factory dysfunction yet.

        But anybody wondering why the US auto industry went downhill will have their curiosity more than satisfied by reading “A Savage Factory.” You know, you lived it.

  • avatar
    memremkr

    I think I drew some of my first impressions of the UAW came about when I found a paper coffee cup, with the UAW logo all over it, jammed up underneath my drivers seat on a Chevrolet I had bought in the late 1980′s. Obviously this “fine union associate, taking great pride in his work” was too lazy to walk to a trash can off the line.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    How much does VW pay y’all each time you publish this image of a teal box?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      How much does FCA pay you to publicly confess to owning a Neon?

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        My contracts ran out two mergers ago– but that damned neon just keeps running.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Mine didn’t. At 99K miles, it was toast.

          • 0 avatar
            iNeon

            Well, then. I guess you showed me.

            On behalf of my internet name– I would like to apologize that your neon didn’t last past 99,000 miles.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            One of my close friends had an ’02 new until late 2006. She put 117K on it. and to my shock at the time, had few real problems and traded it for a Jetta and S&M. My ex’s family had a just above junkyard grade ’01 which had 180K last I saw it. Drove terribly, fishtailed everywhere, burned oil, would probably disintegrate in a crash… but it ran. I almost bought one in March but my brother did instead. However as chance would have it, it did not work out as well as we’d like. Two owner MY04 SXT/65K, slight rust on the rear wheel well, otherwise drove well and shifted first and second gear without incident. We got it in for inspection and it’s rocker panels were toast. $1400 later for rockers, body work, inspection, brakes, and two tires it looked good and drove well… until recently. The car started experienced intermediate trouble driving uphill where it would not upshift into second gear. We sent it to the transmission shop who found a very bizarre problem. Evidently at some point the radiator was replaced I suppose with an aftermarket one. When this occurred transmission fluid lines into the radiator were somehow damaged, and coolant begin to slowly drip into these lines leading into the transmission itself co-mingling with the trans fluid. Over time (perhaps years) a sludge developed and it occasionally prevents the solenoid inside the transmission from moving properly. The shop recommended a replacement or rebuild, which bro did not elect to perform. He’s now considering a new Subbie and trying to get some money for the Neon on trade. I worked in the business for years and have been around cars since I was 14, I have never heard of such a problem, but I suppose it could happen to any model.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    These sorts of “voluntary unions” are not unheard of elsewhere. I believe the difference is that there is not any sort of collective-bargaining agreement with a voluntary union. Certainly the employer and union can discuss the various sorts of things they usually bargain about, but whether or not the employer agrees to anything is up to the employer; a vote by the union members is not binding on the employer to deploy or not deploy a particular contract, working condition, etc.

    Basically, traditional “at-will” employment is still the case, but there’s a formal structure the employer can use to obtain employee input.

    • 0 avatar
      piffpaff

      voluntary unions in open shop are common outside of north america. usually there are protections for employees who wish to be members of the union (employer is not allowed to discriminate against them), but also for employees who wish to remain outside the union (no harassment from the union, no discrimination from the employer). this leads to a situation where the union would negotiate an agreement and the employer applies it to all employees. the union money comes from member dues from employees who wants to influence the union priorities but also want support for individual grievances (instead of hiring a lawyer, you will be represented by the union’s lawyer).
      this type of union is typically more attuned to member wishes and needs, because they need to attract members.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I am no UAW fan but the breathless speculation about what is happening at VAG Chattanooga is getting bit much. It seems clear that VAG corporate wants to have union represented workers and they will make it happen. If they come to an agreement with both their workers and the UAW, who are we second guess their plans?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “the UAW appears to be close to hitting the majority threshold needed”

    That’s political prognosticating. It’s what every trailing candidate claims.

    I think this remains a non-starter.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    This was the obvious answer here, the fact that elections and card check are the battlegrounds of multi-million dollar campaigns seems a natural extension. This is welcome news and obvious news as well, VW wanted the UAW there, Germany is pro-worker (and by proxy pro-union) so when they put a plant in Tennessee it was going to eventually be unionized once the Union board members asserted their authority.

    So all the angry spittle from the right was largely for naught. VW got to get corporate welfare from Tennessee and the union grows a bit stronger. Win-win from my end.

  • avatar
    Roader

    “Bernd Osterloh, VW’s global works council chief, was appointed to VW of America’s board of directors just over one month ago.”

    Wow! I wonder if he got a raise? Ol’ Bernie pulled down a cool €495,250 last year, $662,000 in ‘Murican money. Turns out Vanguard of the Proletariat pays pretty well. Who knew? And now with US workers maybe paying dues, Ol’ Bernie will really be in the money!

    Gratis Apfelstrudel für alle!

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      So if top level management makes a million dollars it’s good, greed is great. If top level management at an union makes that same million dollars they’re traitors to the cause? Double standards are so much fun!

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    And he’s rubbing shoulders and arm-wrestling with execs who make ten times as much, I’d bet. Give the guy a break, he needs a good haircut and an able tailor.

  • avatar
    Roader

    And no doubt Bernie will return to a simple production line job once VW management withers away as VW workers achieve a utopian state of equality and cooperation. He’ll probably be assigned the job of Under-The-Seat-Paper-Cup-Inserter. According to freetranslation(dot)com, in German that would be:

    Unter dem Sitz Pappbecher Kuvertiersystem

    His new position probably won’t pay two thirds of a million bucks per year, though. No more free strudel…

  • avatar

    I’ve owned not one but two Hyundai products built at the company’s Ulsan plant in South Korea as well as one made at the non-union Montgomery, Alabama plant. In addition to being their largest plant with an annual capacity of around 1.3 million cars, SUVs, buses and heavy-duty trucks, the Ulsan facility is also represented by one of (if not the) most powerful and fractious labor unions in the world. Since the plant unionized in 1987, it has gone on strike every year except for four, a figure that would make even the proudest mid-70s UAW member blush.

    Both of the cars I’ve owned that came out of the factory gates at Ulsan have been flawless. The first was a 2004 Santa Fe and the second (current) is a 2012 Elantra. Both had nice, even paint jobs, flawless panel gaps, excellent attention to detail and no squeaks or rattles. Even at 48,000 miles, the Elantra remains rattle-free. The 2010 Santa Fe (a Montgomery alum) had one small issue go over-looked but nothing that can’t be chalked up to human error.

    Now as far as Hyundai Corporate’s attention to detail is concerned, that could leave much to be desired but as far as the people who put their cars together, unionized or otherwise, I have no complaints.

  • avatar
    manxSR

    Screw the UAW… actually, they may be the death-nail in VW’s coffin in America. VW build quality is still in the crapper.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Local 42?

    Did they choose that number knowing it’s the answer, or because they’re hoping that infinite improbability will actually get them in the door?


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