The Truth About Cars » Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Volkswagen Group Of America Names German Labor Leader To Board Of Directors http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-names-labor-head-to-us-board-of-directors/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-names-labor-head-to-us-board-of-directors/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 14:12:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865921 Bernd-Osterloh

The horse-trading between Volkswagen, the UAW and IG Metall that eventually led to both the UAW’s “voluntary union” and the new crossover’s production at Chattanooga isn’t quite over yet. Buried deep in VW’s announcement is the news that Volkswagen’s board member in charge of their global Works Council Bernd Osterloh will join the Volkswagen Group of Amerca’s Board of Directors.

Osterloh has long been a thorn in the side of anti-UAW forces, suggesting that without UAW representation, the crossover would not come to Chattanooga – something that Osterloh, as a member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board, can set into motion if he feels vengeful enough.

In the end, the UAW lost and the crossover came to Chattanooga, but presumably, something had to give so that IG Metall took some kind of victory, real or perceived.

VW’s official announcement states

“We are pleased that Mr. Osterloh has declared his willingness to play a concentrated role in shaping our US strategy in the future. He will represent the views of the workforce. This is in line with the codetermination culture of Volkswagen, which is one of our key success factors,” Prof. Dr. Winterkorn said.

Osterloh stated: “It is important for us that our colleagues in the U.S. know that we also care about the production site and the employment in Chattanooga. I am looking forward to my work on the Board. I am determined to uphold the interests of Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga. The North American market offers considerable opportunities; in my opinion, these have not been pursued with sufficient consistency in the past. With today’s decision to produce the midsize SUV in the USA, we are taking a key step.”

The natural response to this is, why does a German union official care about the interests of American workers? From where I sit, it seems that this was a concession made to get Osterloh and IG Metall to acquiesce to the production decision – something has previously been threatened if union demands weren’t met. Even though the UAW is gaining little traction with their own organization campaign, they now have an ally in IG Metall, able to influence decisions at Volkswagen Group of America.

This isn’t the first time a cross-continent trade has happened. Outgoing UAW President Bob King was chosen by IG Metall to sit on Opel’s board, and the two unions have been moving towards deeper ties in recent years.

 

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Volkswagen Confirms New SUV Will Be Built In Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-confirms-new-suv-will-be-built-in-chattanooga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-confirms-new-suv-will-be-built-in-chattanooga/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:43:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865897 450x299x550x366xVolkswagen-CrossBlue-Concept-550x366.jpg,Mic_.uF-8gWFYml-450x299.jpg.pagespeed.ic.rA7817fp9x

Volkswagen will invest $900-million and add 2,000 jobs as part of a decision to build their long-awaited mid-size crossover in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The plant, which already builds the Passat, has been the site of a number of disputes, pitting the UAW and organized labor against an equally passionate opposition that includes the state level government and other anti-UAW entities.

The new crossover, considered a vital part of VW’s success, will be based on VW’s MQB platform, and be produced in 2016.

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UAW To Form Union Local For Volkswagen Chattanooga Workers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/uaw-to-form-union-local-for-volkswagen-chattanooga-workers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/uaw-to-form-union-local-for-volkswagen-chattanooga-workers/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:23:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863049 Click here to view the embedded video.

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.

H/T to Jalopnik 

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Volkswagen Crossover Will Be Built In Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/volkswagen-crossover-will-be-built-in-chattanooga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/volkswagen-crossover-will-be-built-in-chattanooga/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 04:01:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=849794 550x366xVolkswagen-CrossBlue-Concept-550x366.jpg.pagespeed.ic.uF-8gWFYml

Reuters is reporting that the long-awaited decision on the production site of Volkswagen’s new crossover is set to be handed down any day now, and the winner is Chattanooga.

According to Reuters, a generous incentive package swayed the decision to build the new CUV in the United States, rather than Mexico

The state of Tennessee is offering tax breaks, staff training, free land and infrastructure upgrades worth about $300 million in total, giving it a clear edge over Puebla, Mexico

Dealers have been crying out for a CUV sized above the Touraeg, but priced closer to the Honda Pilot (rather than in the pseudo-luxury space occupied by the Touraeg). With CUV sales growing in globally, the lack of competitive crossovers in Volkswagen’s North American product portfolio is undoubtedly holding them back from further growth in North America. The new three-row CUV should help put them on track – but without a next-generation Tiguan that’s adapted to North American tastes, it may be too little too late.

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VW Pulled By Competing Incentive Offers For New SUV Assembly http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/vw-pulled-by-competing-incentive-offers-for-new-suv-assembly/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/vw-pulled-by-competing-incentive-offers-for-new-suv-assembly/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836113 Volkswagen-CrossBlue-Concept

Though the seven-passenger SUV based upon the CrossBlue concept is ready to be built, Volkswagen is being pulled by incentive offers in the two locations fighting for the right to build the SUV: Mexico and Tennessee.

Reuters reports VW would have made its decision by now as to where the new product would be assembled, but sources close to the issue have said the automaker will likely announce the location by the end of June at the earliest. Though Tennessee originally offered $300 million for the SUV, the state government now has to match or better what Mexico offered once the original deal was abruptly pulled off the table in January 2014 ahead of a contentious organized labor election at VW’s Chattanooga factory.

In Mexico, VW invested $700 million toward refurbishing its 50-year-old Puebla plant for production of the new Golf, which will be made alongside the Jetta and Beetle already in production by the plant’s 15,000 employees. If the nation is chosen, the new SUV would be made there or in Audi’s San Jose Chiapa, where the Q5 will be built beginning in 2016.

As for what VW knows about Tennessee’s new incentive offer, the automaker remains silent on the issue beyond confirming they are talking to state officials.

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Corker: VW SUV Production Announcement To Come Sooner Than Later http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/corker-vw-suv-production-announcement-to-come-sooner-than-later/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/corker-vw-suv-production-announcement-to-come-sooner-than-later/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820370 Senator Bob Corker

Though no word yet has come down from Volkswagen on where the confirmed seven-passenger SUV for the U.S. market will be assembled, U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee says that decision would come “in the very near future.”

Detroit Free Press reports the senator couldn’t put a time frame on when VW would deliver its announcement, but did believe the automaker’s plans were “moving in the right direction,” despite Tennessee governor Bill Haslam stating no meetings were set up between his administration and VW since the end of the tumultuous fight over the Chattanooga plant between the United Auto Workers and anti-union opposition earlier in the year.

In response, Corker proclaimed:

I think if you had that conversation with the governor today he’d give you a different response. Again, the election was just certified within the last few weeks and you know things are moving in the direction that we thought they would.

He further stated that while the plant may not be the clear winner it once may have been, he had no indication that anything else has changed.

The Haslam administration offered a $300 million subsidy to VW if it chose to build its CrossBlue Concept-based full-size SUV in Tennessee, only to withdraw the offer in January 2014 ahead of the contentious organization election at the Chattanooga facility.

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VW Confirms American Crossover, No Manufacturing Site Announced http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/vw-confirms-american-crossover-no-manufacturing-site-announced/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/vw-confirms-american-crossover-no-manufacturing-site-announced/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 11:13:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819738 550x336xVolkswagen-CrossBlue-Concept-SUV-550x336.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Uh5jr0m80K

Volkswagen partially answered one of its biggest questions today, with an announcement that a new mid-size SUV for the American market is in the pipeline.

The announcement is expected to be made official later today, as part of a broader plan to build a new Audi factory in Mexico and refresh VW’s lineup in Brazil. Along with the product announcements, Bloomberg is reporting that VW is on track to deliver 10 million vehicles in 2014, well head of VW’s initial forecasts.

But the success comes at a price: VW’s plans for the American market have been a major disappointment, with continuously sliding sales even as the American market hits record volumes. The new SUV is a major cornerstone for VW’s plans in America, as it competes in one of the biggest market segments, but dealers will have to wait years for its introduction.

Also left unresolved was its production site. The recent battle over whether or not the UAW could organize VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant was supposed to have resolved the matter, but warring factions on both sides failed to provide a clear resolution. VW supervisory board officials said that a “No” vote to the UAW would put the SUV in jeopardy, while Tennessee state officials said that a “Yes” vote would mean an end to subsidies slated for plant expansion for the SUV. The SUV’s placement at Chattanooga could expand capacity from 150,000 to 500,000 units, but VW could also decide to build it in Mexico.

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Volkswagen May Announce Location Of New SUV Production Next Week http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volkswagen-may-announce-location-of-new-suv-production-next-week/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volkswagen-may-announce-location-of-new-suv-production-next-week/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 13:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=818522 Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept SUV

Volkswagen appears ready to announce where its upcoming mid-size SUV — based upon the CrossBlue concept from the 2013 Detroit Auto Show — will be assembled.

Automotive News reports the decision could come as soon as next week at the earliest, though execs either don’t know or cannot say for sure, citing the automaker’s board’s tendency to keep things close to its Teutonic heart. Two locations up for nomination include Mexico and the beleaguered-by-politics plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Either way, the new SUV will be produced and sold for the U.S. and Canadian markets.

The only roadblock for production in the U.S. is whether or not a $300 million packaged offered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development — pulled off the table in January of this year ahead of a then-impending United Auto Workers election at the Chattanooga facility — will actually be offered. Department PR chief Clint Brewer stated in an email that his department has attempted to contact VW, but nothing more has come of it thus far.

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VW, UAW Consider Options Surrounding Chattanooga Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/vw-uaw-consider-options-surrounding-chattanooga-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/vw-uaw-consider-options-surrounding-chattanooga-plant/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 12:30:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=811490 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

After backing out from its appeal over results of the February 2014 organization election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant, the United Auto Workers is considering options to organize the plant, just as Volkswagen itself is considering several options outside of Tennessee for its new SUV.

The Detroit News reports VW attorney Alex Leath sent an email in late January 2014 to Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development during negotiations over incentives to build the SUV in Tennessee that, while there were “non-deal” issues delaying “the TN solution,” the automaker had been successful in “reaching agreement on terms” at a number of unidentified locations. Leath also had been drafting a memorandum of understanding which included proposed incentive figures from several months prior. Amid opposition toward the UAW establishing a presence in the plant by Republican politicians and affiliated outside parties, and in response to the memorandum, the agency withdrew the $300 million in incentives it planned to offer VW in exchange for for the seven-passenger SUV.

Moving ahead to this week, UAW president Bob King stated the biggest factor in backing down on its appeal before the National Labor Relations Board was to help VW and the workers in Chattanooga land the deal for the SUV. In the meantime, the union is considering options to bring organized labor to the plant, including a private vote to be held sometime this year. King added that the UAW still had representatives working with the workers on the floor in Chattanooga, vowing the union would continue to push for representation.

As for the deal that had been cast aside, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam hopes to quickly reestablish talks between the state and VW for the SUV, though Mexico has made an offer to bring the product into one of its factories.

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Volkswagen Leaves Door Open For “Co-Determination” In Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/volkswagen-leaves-door-open-for-co-determination-in-chattanooga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/volkswagen-leaves-door-open-for-co-determination-in-chattanooga/#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=809754 2012-volkswagen-passat-front-three-quarters-chattanooga

Though the United Auto Workers recently backed down from challenging the results of the February 2014 organization election held at Volkwagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant before the National Labor Relations Board, Volkswagen has opted to leave the door open for representation via a variation of the works council model used elsewhere.

Just-Auto reports the automaker welcomed the UAW’s withdrawal from the fight, proclaiming that it could now move forward with its tasks of building cars in Chattanooga, securing jobs in Tennessee, and establishing a new form of what it calls “co-determination” within the United States:

Volkswagen Chattanooga is seeking to establish good opportunities for consultation and representation for all its employees, opportunities that are normal practice for the Volkswagen team all over the world – that applies for those employees who voted against the UAW – just as it applies for those who voted in favour.

As for the UAW, outgoing president Bob King said the union was finally ready to “put the tainted election” behind it, while Senator Bob Corker proclaimed the challenge to the results and subsequent withdrawal as “nothing more than a sideshow to draw away from their stinging loss in Chattanooga.”

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UAW Ends Fight For Organization Of Tennessee VW Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/uaw-ends-fight-for-organization-of-tennessee-vw-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/uaw-ends-fight-for-organization-of-tennessee-vw-plant/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 20:30:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=806762 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

The Huffington Post reports the United Auto Workers has withdrawn its petition with the National Labor Resources Board challenging the results of the February 2014 election regarding organization of the workforce at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

UAW President Bob King said the decision to withdraw was made “in the best interests” of all parties involved, citing the “historically dysfunctional and complex process” such a challenge before the NLRB would entail. King added that resistance met by both Tennessee governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker regarding the union’s effort to subpoena the politicians also factored into the decision to stand down:

The UAW is ready to put February’s tainted election in the rearview mirror and instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga.

Though the challenge — which would have led to a new election at the factory had it been successful — has been withdrawn, King said the challenge did shed light on the election by “inform[ing] the public about the unprecedented interference by anti-labor politicians and third parties,” such as the number of documents gathered by Nashville, Tenn. CBS affiliate WTVF-TV linking Gov. Haslam’s administration to incentives made to VW for a new factory on the alleged stipulation that the Chattanooga plant remaining unorganized.

Had the UAW stood firm with their petition, the first hearing would have been held Monday.

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UAW Subpoenas Haslam, Corker To Appear At VW NLRB Appeal Hearing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/uaw-subpoenas-haslam-corker-to-appear-at-vw-nlrb-appeal-hearing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/uaw-subpoenas-haslam-corker-to-appear-at-vw-nlrb-appeal-hearing/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793666 Governor_Bill_Haslam

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker are just two of the 20 prominent Tennessee witnesses subpoenaed by the United Auto Workers to appear at the union’s hearing before the National Labor Resource Board later this month, where the UAW will appeal the results of the organizing election held at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga back in February of this year.

The Detroit News reports the 20 witnesses subpoenaed are ordered to bring emails and documents related to a state government incentive made to VW in the aim of bringing production of a planned midsize SUV to Tennessee. Outgoing UAW president Bob King defended his union’s decision:

The purpose of the NLRB’s investigation is to determine the truth concerning the third-party interference in the February election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. The NLRB’s rules call for the use of subpoenas as part of this truth-seeking exercise. The UAW hopes that all parties who receive subpoenas will fully comply by providing the NLRB with the requested documents and with their testimony.

The action comes on the heels of an exposé conducted by Nashville CBS affiliate WTVF-TV regarding documents linking the Haslam administration to an incentive proposal made to the German automaker on the alleged condition the plant in Chattanooga remain unorganized; the proposal was withdrawn in January ahead of the election.

Among the others subpoenaed by the UAW include Tennessee house speaker Beth Harwell, economic development commissioner Bill Hagerty, and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

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Leaked Documents Link Anti-Union VW Incentive Offer To TN Governor’s Office http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/leaked-documents-link-anti-union-vw-incentive-offer-to-tn-governors-office/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/leaked-documents-link-anti-union-vw-incentive-offer-to-tn-governors-office/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 14:15:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=786417 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

Leaked documents linked to the United Auto Workers battle for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. point to a connection between Governor Bill Haslam and the German automaker regarding a $300 million incentive in exchange for over 1,300 jobs at a proposed SUV plant within the state.

WTVF-TV reports the incentives were contingent “to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.” By the time Volkswagen entered into election talks with the UAW in January, however, the Haslam administration formally notified the automaker that it was withdrawing the offer, citing that it had kept the offer on the table past the 90-day window normally reserved for incentives when the incentive in question had no such expiration date.

Though Haslam has denied any such connection to the incentive — dubbed “Project Trinity” — U.S. Senator Bob Corker claimed as early as February of this year that the offering would be made should the workers at the Chattanooga plant vote against representation by the union.

As for the UAW, organizer Gary Casteel stated the following in response to whether the now-public documents were a game-changer in the union’s appeal to the National Labor Relations Board over the election results:

To me, it puts pressure on the state to do what they should have done in the first place — and that’s give the incentives with no strings attached, just like they would any other company, union or non-union.

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UAW Will Appeal NLRB Decision Giving Anti-UAW VW Workers Voice http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uaw-will-appeal-nlrb-decision-giving-anti-uaw-vw-workers-voice/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/uaw-will-appeal-nlrb-decision-giving-anti-uaw-vw-workers-voice/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:39:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770945 092112_WEB_a_VW_Sign_t618

Angered by the decision made by the National Labor Relations Board to allow anti-UAW Volkswagen workers to defend the results of an election held last month at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. on whether or not to be represented by the United Auto Workers, the union has vowed to appeal.

Reuters reports the union believes the NLRB discarded its own precedent by allowing the workers — supported by both the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation and Southern Momentum, two of the outside groups that had campaigned against organization by the UAW — a formal role in the dispute, and expressed their displeasure in a statement:

It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce, will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing.

Though it was the regional office in Atlanta who signed-off on the decision to allow the anti-UAW workers a valid voice in the dispute, the UAW plans to appeal directly to the five-member NLRB board in Washington, D.C. The office is overseeing the main dispute over the election results — whose decision could lead to a new election if all is found in favor of the UAW — and is planning an investigation regarding the outside interference alleged by the union to be the main cause of their loss.

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IG Metall Warns Against Yellow Union For Chattanooga VW Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ig-metall-warns-against-yellow-union-for-chattanooga-vw-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ig-metall-warns-against-yellow-union-for-chattanooga-vw-plant/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 13:12:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=766121 IG Metall

While Volkswagen works to find a way to establish a works council at their Chattanooga, Tenn. plant in the wake of the failed United Auto Workers election and subsequent appeal to the National Labor Relations Board, German union IG Metall is warning against the establishment of what it calls a “yellow” union at the plant, or one that has been established by Volkswagen.

Just-Auto reports IG Metall international department director Horst Mund, though disappointed with the outcome of the UAW election, believes the only way to a works council is through unionization, while also warning against any diluted form of representation at the plant:

From my talks and contacts with unions in the US, I can tell there is scepticism against house unions. We have seen attempts throughout the world [when] yellow unions are installed. I am not saying Volkswagen is anywhere near contemplating this – on the contrary they are definitely not.

Regarding the UAW appeal, Mund says the fight “was never fair,” citing the outside interference alleged by the union in their appeal as the cause of their defeat, and supports the union’s appeal. He also found the entire controversy around the election absurd, especially with its “life [and] death” tone:

This is not about life and death. It is about simple choice.

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Volkswagen Mum On Alleged Expansion Of U.S. Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volkswagen-mum-on-alleged-expansion-of-u-s-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volkswagen-mum-on-alleged-expansion-of-u-s-plant/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=760105 Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept SUV

Though United States Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee claimed Volkswagen would announce an expansion of the plant in his native Chattanooga — slated to build a midsize SUV based on the CrossBlue Concept from this year’s Detroit Auto Show — if the workers rejected the United Auto Workers in last month’s attempt to organise the plant, the German automaker has remained silent as of this weekend.

The Detroit Free Press reports Corker believes the delay is the result of an appeal made by the UAW to the National Labor Relations Board, citing the senator’s comments and those of outside anti-union interests as the chief causes in the election’s failure. He also dismissed the idea VW would decide to build the new SUV in either Tennessee or Mexico no matter the election’s outcome:

There is no way I’d put out a statement like I put out unless I was 1,000% that it was accurate in every way.

Meanwhile, VW is moving forward with a plan to install a works council in the Tennessee plant, though where the automaker may build its next U.S. plant depends on the success of the campaign. VW Global Works Council head Bernd Osterloh warned that the “massive antiunion atmosphere” surrounding Chattanooga could prompt the company to take their ball out of the South should future expansion be considered.

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Corker: Labor Board Should Not Silence Lawmakers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/corker-labor-board-should-not-silence-lawmakers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/corker-labor-board-should-not-silence-lawmakers/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 15:45:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757161 Senator Bob Corker

Former Chattanooga, Tenn. mayor and current United States Senator Bob Corker urged the National Labor Relations Board not to silence him or fellow lawmakers opposed to unionization as the NLRB considers an appeal by the United Auto Workers over the results of the three-day election recently held at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga.

Reuters reports Sen. Corker issued a statement during the election, where conversations led him to believe that if the workers rejected UAW representation, then VW would build a new midsize SUV in his state. He adds that when Democrat politicians voiced support for unions in the past, the NLRB ruled they properly expressed their free speech rights, a ruling Corker hopes will run for the opposition, as well:

I hope that the NLRB will understand and realize the magnitude of what they are going to be deciding and in no way will try to muzzle public officials who are community leaders from expressing their point of view.

Corker said he spoke out against the UAW in order to counteract misinformation about the SUV’s arrival being tied to the plant’s unionization, an allegation the union denies making while consistently stating the vote would not affect where the SUV would ultimately be produced.

Though mum on where his information regarding the rejection originated, Corker stood firm on his criticism of the UAW and its main reason for showing up in his state in the first place:

I think it was very apparent the UAW was in Chattanooga for one reason – dollars.

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VW Chattanooga Workers File Against UAW Recount http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-chattanooga-workers-file-against-uaw-recount/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-chattanooga-workers-file-against-uaw-recount/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 21:52:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=755345 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

Five workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. plant have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board against the United Auto Workers’ challenge to invalidate the outcome from this month’s three-day election, which saw the union fail to win the right to represent the plant’s workers in a close fight.

Automotive News reports the quintet are aided by attorneys for anti-union organization National Right to Work Foundation, who believe if the NRLB doesn’t hear the workers, then no one might be able to resist the UAW, a belief NRWF President Mark Mix further explained in a statement regarding the petition:

Based on Volkswagen management’s actions leading up to this point, these workers are concerned that VW will not actively defend their vote to remain free from union boss control. That’s why these workers have filed a motion to intervene.

Meanwhile, the UAW’s argument for their filing is based upon alleged interference from anti-union forces, such as United States Senator Bob Corker, who said if workers voted against the union, the plant would find new funding to expand around a new midsize SUV set to be built in 2016. If allowed to stand, however, the results would be a major setback for the union in their battle to organize the South’s automotive industry.

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VW Labor Leaders Fight To Establish U.S. Works Council http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-labor-leaders-fight-to-establish-u-s-works-council/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-labor-leaders-fight-to-establish-u-s-works-council/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:30:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753737 2012-volkswagen-passat-front-three-quarters-chattanooga

While the United Auto Workers take their battle to bring their brand of organization to Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. before the National Labor Relations Board, VW’s labor leaders are regrouping in their fight to establish a works council in the U.S. plant.

Automotive News reports two top officials from VW’s global works council, secretary generals Gunnar Kilian and Frank Patta, are in the United States for the next two weeks consulting with labor law experts as to what steps will need to be taken to establish a works council at the automaker’s Tennessee plant, an idea popular with a number of the plant’s workforce, especially those who voted to keep the UAW out of their floor during the three-day election held two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, UAW supporters believe a U.S. works council would need the legal force of a union contract for a council to work at all. A few options would include talking with a different union, moving forward without a union, or — as both U.S. Senator and former mayor of Chattanooga Bob Corker and American University professor Steve Silvia have suggested — establishing their own union.

Whatever the decision, future expansion into the U.S. market depends on a positive outcome; VW works council chairman Bernd Osterloh told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that labor leadership would “hardly be able to vote in favor” of expansion by VW executives so long as Chattanooga remains unorganized.

Finally, the UAW has also vowed to fight for organization of the plant, filing a 58-page brief with the NLRB last weekend citing outside interference as reasoning for holding a new election. Dennis Williams, possible successor to the presidency of the UAW when outgoing president Bob King steps down in June, may have to wait a year before attempting to organize the plant again, but he doesn’t mind:

We’re not leaving Chattanooga. It took seven years to organize Ford, and I will be around for at least another five.

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Guest Post: Jamie Kitman On The Battle Of Chattanooga http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/guest-post-jamie-kitman-on-the-battle-of-chattanooga/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/guest-post-jamie-kitman-on-the-battle-of-chattanooga/#comments Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=743201 VW-Gesetz-IG-Metall

TTAC welcomes Jamie Kitman, of Automobile Magazine, NPR’s CarTalk and other international outlets, as he presents his analysis of what went wrong at Chattanooga, and the next steps for the labor movement’s efforts in the auto industry.

With all the clamorous back patting and joyous trills of laughter attending the defeat of the UAW’s unionization drive at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, one has that nagging sensation, increasingly common these days that the whole 20th century never happened.

I am not here to defend everything that has ever been done in the name of the United Auto Workers or any other union, because their list of wrongdoings is long. There has been corruption, laziness and greed, none of which I, or most union members, for that matter, would endorse. But the list of mean, corrupt and otherwise heinous acts committed by manufacturers through the years in the name of unfettered profit is undoubtedly greater. Profits are swell and all that, but the business of manufacturing is most beneficial to communities and society as a whole when all stakeholders have a seat at the table.

Anyone who can remember or has read of the days when a worker without a college education could support a family, buy a house, go on vacation, put three kids through braces and college, ought to think about the good unions have done. Ironically, many who lament the passing of middle class prosperity oppose one of the main instrument s of its creation.

Now there are those whose official position is to go blindly on the side of organized capital, no matter the cost, including apparently enough Republican politicians in Tennessee to fill a basketball arena, and that is their right. Less certain is whether terrifying workers about the parade of horribles that might ensue from a vote to certify the union – based on conversations they claim to have had with VW management – will withstand legal muster; if VW had told workers they’d close down a line on account of a pro-union vote, they’d be in violation of the law. If local politicians with their television pulpits were knowingly doing the company’s bidding, the law may well have been broken, too.

Then again, these are the same politicians who tell their constituents that climate change is a myth, that President Obama is a communist traitor and demand that their children be taught in public schools that the world was formed over a mere 144 hours, 6000 years ago. The people keep electing them, so maybe the non-union South is simply getting what it’s paid for.

What rankles are those who claim to be looking out for working men and women and oppose unions anyway as bad for labor. Where is their proof? That the American auto industry went wrong after 100 years on top? Er, actually, the years of the industry’s greatest prosperity coincided with the years of the UAW’s greatest prominence.

What rankles still more are the so-called journalists covering this story as if somehow the future of capitalism depended on their penning love letters to management. They seem to have forgotten that there were good and honest reasons for autoworkers to unionize in the 1930s. That there were reasons employees tithed a portion of their weekly wage packets to the union, and reasons that laws were enacted to protect the right of workers to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. And there were reasons that, yes, car companies, like Volkswagen, grew to value their union relationships.

Well, folks, those reasons didn’t all go away. Do you honestly believe that no one at any of the southern car factories wants to be in a union? Would that be because life on the shop floor has gotten so pleasant and they feel like they’re getting paid so much and that their work rules and grievance procedures are now so fair that they have no complaints? If so, ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, why aren’t you actually reporting that story on the ground, rather than inferring it from the lack of successful union drives in the South? Or perhaps you might have to start reporting the story of how Nissan and other U.S. transplants spy on and thuggishly seek to disrupt the would-be organizers in their midst, as anti-union managements have always done. That is, of course, how unions were kept down in their early days, all across America, all across the world. Other times, when their movements started becoming too successful, workers were killed for their union activity.

But let’s ignore that part of the ugly history and stay in the moment. Assaying the wholesale death of middle-class factory jobs in this increasingly non-union country, the value of union associations to workers seems kind of obvious. And now as union membership dwindles, we see more auto industry jobs that don’t pay enough for people to even approximate what was known for more than half a century as a decent, middle class life. Instead, we increasingly see workers hired in the non-union, transplant carmakers – Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota, BMW and Honda—not only as non-union employees, but as temporary workers, with few if any benefits to go with their new, lower wages. The auto industry is not alone here, but without a viable middle class, one must wonder who exactly is going to be buying all those cars and trucks our factories can make. If people had more money, maybe they wouldn’t need 80-month loans and all that cash back.

Low wages aren’t as bad as no wages because you have no job, it’s true, but they’re not as nice as good wages and that’s not the choice, anyway. Commentators and pundits lashed out at Henry Ford for paying his workers a living $5 a day wage when half that was the national standard but the move, if anything, helped his company. And the unionized American industry proved for much of the 20th century that you could have both jobs and good wages, with the German automobile industry out there still, continuing to prove the same thing. Not too unsuccessful a manufacturing economy last time I looked, Germany pays its autoworkers the world’s highest industrial wages. And indeed Volkswagen’s 61 other factories outside the US are union shops, excluding China.

So what’s that I hear, Sen. Corker? You think the deal the Chinese workers get is good enough for the hardworking people of Tennessee?

Evidently. For those who weren’t paying attention, the senator was so exorcised by the fact that a UAW preliminary card count showing a majority of workers at Chattanooga supporting the union, that he publicly told VW workers that the SUV the company was saying it might build in Tennessee would go elsewhere if the union was certified.

“I’ve had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga,” Corker announced, ominously. Of course, his statement also admits of the possibility that they might have also said they’d build it either way, but clearly that was not the impression he meant to give.

And what Volkswagen was thinking isn’t exactly clear, either. Their union at home in Germany is very powerful, but that doesn’t mean they like it.

Of course, Volkswagen Chattanooga’s chairman and CEO Frank Fischer dismissed any linkage between the vote and the decision to build the new SUV in Chattanooga . But there is good reason to believe Corker’s scare tactic was enough to scuttle the UAW’s drive; just 44 additional people would have had to vote in favor of union affiliation for it to have prevailed.

There’s also ample reason for VW’s Chattanooga work force to question the overall sincerity of its employers, which already reneged on a pledge to build Audis there, so long as the launches of the Jetta and New Beetle (built in Mexico) were successful, which they claimed were. So who knows what the truth of VW’s involvement is?

If they really wanted the UAW in place so as to be able to set up their works council, surely they could have countered Corker’s intemperate remarks. Or perhaps they have another way around U.S. labor laws. Who knows?

What we do know is that the company certainly knows how to sweet talk Tennessee politicians, having received the most generous state grant of any American corporation looking to set up shop anywhere ever – a package that included $577 million in tax breaks, over $40 million in training assistance and over 1,500 acres of land, gratis. All for 1,550 jobs, in a city which can’t afford to update a sewage system that is 100 years out of date, causing the town to reek many days of the year. That’s close to half a million dollars per job.

The really upside down part is that Detroit still pays union wages to some of its employees. So actions like Corker’s are in essence a gift to big conglomerates from Japan, Germany and Korea when they come to America. Until, that is, the moment when the low wages paid in transplant factories fully kill decent wages for the home team. At which point they will have sown the seeds for a union fight as ugly as any ever seen.

Because the harder the workers get stomped on, the sooner and clearer the need for unions will be. Because left to its own devices, big money always races to the bottom. It is the nature of the beast.

So the battle of Chattanooga may be lost. But the larger war is hardly over.

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UAW, VW Works Council Regrouping Under Voting Fallout http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-works-council-regrouping-under-voting-fallout/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-works-council-regrouping-under-voting-fallout/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=742985 2012AerialfromWest

Following the 712 – 629 decision against representation by the United Auto Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., the union may be forced to throw in the towel on foreign-owned auto factories as the automaker’s works council vow to press forward with plans to establish their brand of representation in the plant.

Bloomberg and Reuters report that though the UAW may have been thwarted in their recent organizing efforts at the plant by third-party organizations and local and state politicians opposed to the union, Volkswagen’s works council remains undeterred, according to council secretary general Gunnar Kilian in a statement:

We have always stressed that the decision over union representation lies in the hands of the workers in Chattanooga. The result of the election has not changed our goal of creating a works council in Chattanooga.

Kilian and VW Global Works Council Secretary General Frank Patta are expected to travel to the United States in the next two weeks to meet and consult with labor law experts to determine the next steps needed to bring a works council to the U.S. plant.

Meanwhile, the UAW remains optimistic in the face of the Chattanooga vote for the time being, with support from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

The closeness of the results and the courage and tenacity of union supporters prove that this election is a minor setback, and not a permanent defeat. The ferocity of the anti-union forces only reinforces the fact that there is a powerful new form of organizing emerging.

The union faced opposition by anti-union groups, including one with ties to anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, and Tennessee Republican political leaders such as Governor Bill Haslam and former Chattanooga mayor and current U.S. Senator Bob Corker.

In the long-term, and with membership hovering around 400,000 after falling 75 percent from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979, the UAW may be forced to extend its hand to workers outside of the automotive industry, such as motel maids and university assistants, while walking away from the effort to represent transplant factory workers.

Clark University labor law professor Gary Chaison noted that representation at the VW plant would have bolstered efforts to unionize other Southern plants, such as Daimler AG’s MBUSI plant in Vance, Ala. However, the roadmap may need to be redrawn:

This is a time for soul-searching at the UAW and within the American labor movement. This was the ideal situation and they know that. They might just give up on transplants.

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VW Workers Reject UAW By Narrow Margin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-workers-reject-uaw-by-narrow-margin/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/vw-workers-reject-uaw-by-narrow-margin/#comments Sat, 15 Feb 2014 04:09:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=742345 2012AerialfromWest

Workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga rejected the UAW in a vote that ended Friday night. 712 workers voted “No” to being represented by the UAW while 626 voted Yes. 89 percent of eligible workers turned out for the vote. The UAW failed to secure representation despite Volkswagen’s neutrality towards the UAW and their support of a German-style Works Council.

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NYT: Chattanooga is a Lobbyist Battleground http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nyt-chattanooga-is-a-lobbyist-battleground/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nyt-chattanooga-is-a-lobbyist-battleground/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 12:30:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=727834 volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08

On Tuesday, the New York Times published a look at the ongoing feud between pro- and anti-union forces at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It paints a picture of a political battle fought mainly by outside forces, utilizing the deep pockets of some of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups.

Steven Greenhouse’s story “Outsiders, Not Auto Plant, Battle U.A.W. in Tennessee” is mainly focused on the lobbying efforts of anti-union groups, including the freshly minted Center for Worker Freedom. The CWF is a subsidiary of Americans for Tax Reform, the well-known anti-tax group led by conservative titan Grover Norquist. Conservative commentator Matt Patterson heads the CWF, and has made it clear that he wants the UAW out of Chattanooga, telling the NYT

 “Unions are a big driver of government. Unions are very political, the U.A.W. is one of the most political. If they help elect politicians who pass huge government programs, that requires taxes.”

Mr. Patterson has serious resources to call upon in his crusade. In a piece for conservative blog The Daily Caller, Mr. Patterson lambasted the UAW as a “left-wing ATM machine.” He also criticized the recent rejection by the NLRB of a worker complaint alleging misleading solicitation by the UAW at Chattanooga, labeling it as politically motivated. Mr. Patterson’s CWF is just one of a number of conservative lobbying groups making their presence known in the region. Previous efforts by the UAW to organize the transplant auto factories have widely been dismissed as moribund. However, the level of spending and lobbying action of anti-union groups suggests otherwise, at least in this case.

Greenhouse’s full piece is well worth a read, if only because it shows how high the stakes at Chattanooga have become (or at least are perceived to be). It also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how “pro-union“ and “anti-union“ have been constructed as all-or-nothing categories in post-bailout America. That new politics of exclusion has turned what would originally have been a fairly small-scale regional controversy into a national issue.

The fear of (or hope for) a domino effect of widespread unionization of the Southern auto industry is palpable amongst groups with a national reach.  Even so, the level of concern may be overblown. Every plant is unique, and with manufacturing subdivided between an ever-larger number of OEMs and locations, the chance of unionization automatically spreading is slim. VW’s well-publicized sales difficulties in North America coupled with major layoffs last year have undoubtedly contributed to an exceptional climate at the plant, one unlike the other transplant factories. The future still holds many uncertainties for the friends and foes of organized labor.

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NLRB Rules Against Anti-Union VW Employees http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nlrb-rules-against-anti-union-vw-employees/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nlrb-rules-against-anti-union-vw-employees/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 19:01:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707778 2012AerialfromWest

Reuters is reporting that the office of the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board has recommended that allegations brought by employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant be dismissed.

The latest chapter in the ongoing saga involving the UAW’s attempted organization of the plant involves eight VW’s hourly employees alleging that

“…the UAW coerced them and misled them to sign cards approving the union’s representation of them. Also, four workers alleged that VW, through a German union representative who sits on the company’s supervisory board, threatened them by linking approval of the UAW as union representatives to future work at the plant.”

According to Reuters, the recommendation to dismiss the allegations will now go to a regional panel, but the workers are planning on appealing the ruling. The allegations stem from an incident that the workers allege involved duplicitous practicing regarding union cards. Observers say that if the ruling is upheld, it could pave the way for a worker vote on UAW representation.

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UAW Dues Hike Supported By Membership According to Union President http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-dues-hike-supported-by-membership-according-to-union-president/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/uaw-dues-hike-supported-by-membership-according-to-union-president/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 15:15:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=701994 Bob King

The United Auto Workers will, for the first time since 1967, ask their membership to pay a 25 percent increase in dues to the union in order to shore up their strike fund and fight for better contracts, a move outgoing UAW president Bob King believes the membership will overwhelmingly support.

The increase will be voted upon during the UAW’s Constitutional Convention this June, which is also when members will vote for a new president to lead the union in their effort to unionize autoworkers at foreign-owned plants throughout the southeastern United States. Currently, union members pay two hours’ worth of their wages every month; the increase would tack on another 30 minutes of earned income to the strike fund, which has $600 million at the ready, down from a peak of $1 billion.

Speaking of unionization of the South, King believes the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. will soon join the UAW rank and file once an election process is agreed upon. Though the union claims to have received signed cards from a clear majority of the plant’s autoworkers, critics dispute the idea that the UAW has such a majority in place, nor would the plant be unionized without an election.

Volkswagen says they will respect whatever decision their Chattanooga plant makes, with Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn invoking the values of American democracy in a statement made at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show January 13 regarding the eventual vote to either join the UAW or remain non-union.

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