By on October 24, 2015

volkswagen-chattanooga-solar-park-08 (1)

The United Auto Workers union could make its first real break into the southern U.S. by unionizing 165 “skilled trade” maintenance workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, reported the Associated Press (via The Detroit News).

UAW Local 42 represents some workers at Volkswagen Chattanooga but does not have exclusive bargaining rights at the plant. A new election for union representation, which is being requested by maintenance workers at the plant, would give Local 42 exclusive bargaining rights for those workers.

The effort is part of a “renewed collective bargaining push” unrelated to the diesel emissions scandal, union officials told the AP.

The last election saw the UAW defeated in a 712-626 vote.

Since that vote, Local 42 states they have gained the membership of a majority of hourly workers at the plant and been recognized by Volkswagen as representing those workers, but still does not hold exclusive bargaining rights. According to the union, they represent a total of 816 workers at the plant, or 55 percent of total workers.

Chattanooga builds the Volkswagen Passat and is being upgraded to manufacture a new midsize SUV with production expected to start in 2016.

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47 Comments on “UAW on Path to Represent Maintenance Workers at VW Chattanooga...”


  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    “The effort is part of a “renewed collective bargaining push” unrelated to the diesel emissions scandal, union officials told the AP.”

    Laughable.

    The UAW has the right leverage this time. “You workers know VW is in BIG trouble. You’re in danger of losing your job. Only the UAW can protect you now. We’ll get you more benefits and higher wages too.”

    How many ways VW is in trouble over dieselgate – hard to imagine.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. The UAW has an opening here.

      What a great time to be a lawyer.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Yup. I also agree. The UAW has the upper hand here and they would be the fools for not executing on that advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        If anyone is worried about their job going away and thinks that a US labor union is the key to keeping their job in the US, then they deserve what they will receive.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          CJ, the UAW has powerful allies in ANY ‘crat administration which can lead to US government agencies stepping in and threatening VW with endless litigation if VW wants to make any jobs going away.

          Remember the NLRB and Boeing in SC?

          As long as American buyers choose to buy UAW-made vehicles there will be no end to this relentless prosecution of automakers in America.

        • 0 avatar
          dantes_inferno

          When VW meets their demise in the U.S., history will show the UAW as providing the final death blow.

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            At my employer, we used to joke that UAW was an acronym for United Against Working. Young pups would come in all full of vim and vigor, and after their union “orientation” period, quickly realize that there was a lot of social pressure against overachievers.

            Not difficult to forecast where this VW plant ends up.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    I know this story was posted as the usual “Okay, now everybody pile on unions” clickbait. But, what the hell…

    One can’t discuss this story fully without remembering that the UAW lost the vote in the first place due to external interference that was quite probably outright illegal, by public officials who had no legitimate role in this plant’s labor-management discussion and who were being lavishly bribed by anti-worker corporate interests.

    The undertone of many previous B&B comments about this story was that the UAW is a pitiful, helpless greed machine who can’t accept its time has passed. The more immediate fact is that the workers of Chattanooga were denied their legal right to bargain collectively because they were the victim of a felony-level white-collar crime. If the law still matters to us in America, we should not be content with that outcome.

    • 0 avatar

      “I know this story was posted as the usual “Okay, now everybody pile on unions” clickbait.”

      How so? It’s written as straight as it can be written. Here are the facts. This is important. How the B&B reacts to it is immaterial.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Glad to hear it, Mark. I’ve had the feeling some stories in the recent past were posted in that spirit. I’d be delighted to know the story and headline choices were not designed to pander to the lower impulses they’ve often seemed to bring out.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> Here are the facts.
        “The United Auto Workers union could make its first real break into the southern U.S. ”

        That’s a fact?? There have been plenty of UAW-represented auto plants in the South over the years. Some are still there.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Weimer

      No, the UAW lost because the workers rejected them. Period.

      Your “illegal influence” insinuation is a nice sentiment, but last time I checked, anyone – even a public official – has the right to speak their mind about anything they damn well please. And their funding is irrelevant. Do you really suggest that we set aside a fundamental right – free speech – because you think it may have influenced a vote in a direction you didn’t like?

      Somehow I don’t think you would be complaining quite as much if that “external influence” was favorable to your position.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Public officials do not have the right — either legal or moral — to threaten that they will use their public office to renege on promised tax breaks that led to the original building of the plant in their state, and use their public office to block any further expansion of the plant in violation of their original promises, UNLESS the workers cave to their threats and forfeit their legal right to choose a collective bargaining agent for themselves.

        This is not “my insinuation” that this happened. It is a widely documented violation, committed by Bob Corker and other top Tennessee officials. It is illegal interference with the collective bargaining process.

        And to highdesertcat’s comment above, “endless prosecution” is an entirely appropriate remedy for brazen criminality. Not prosecution of the automaker, as he suggests — because interestingly, VW itself never stepped outside the law (at least not this time) — but prosecution of the officials involved. They were elected as public servants of the people of Tennessee, and they broke the law to strip their rights instead to protect outside monied interests. What they did is the very essence of violating the public trust, and I can’t think of a more fitting response than to make them face a judge and jury to justify themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Dear Jeff Weimer,

        To your accusation that “Somehow I don’t think you would be complaining quite as much if that ‘external influence’ was favorable to your position”:

        You don’t know me well enough to presume I would approve of crimes if they were commmitted on behalf of people I like. I can only assume this is a case of projection. That’s not how some of us roll.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      No, the UAW lost the vote because more people voted against them despite the insider campaign they were able to run thanks to VW’s largess.

      After 30+ years of trying they still haven’t landed Toyota, Nissan, Honda or Subaru. That says a lot as to perception of ROI with UAW dues.

  • avatar

    I won’t pile on the unions. I will say that those workers are lucky someone is looking out for them. They will need it. I hope the last person in the Chattanooga plant will turn out the lights in a few year’s time.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The unions are toothless tigers. The main reason being their own labor lawyers turncoat and go and and work as union busting consultants for the bosses. More money.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Joss, the UAW is not toothless in this case. VW is in deep ca-ca in the US and will agree to anything and everything at this point.

      Look for the whole Chattanooga complex to go UAW sooner rather than later, in order to preserve their jobs.

      The alternative is massive lay-offs when VW scales back production across the board due to diminished demand.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Please explain how the UAW is going to “preserve their jobs”. The jobs bank days are over. If VW decides to bail out of the US [again], it won’t be until after the final fines are assessed, so there goes that leverage. VW’s US customers didn’t care where the cars were made before Chattanooga existed and they won’t care after it closes.

  • avatar
    Rday

    These German liars/cheats/thieves deserve all the bad things that can happen to such a bunch of arrogant SOB’s. The UAW is perfect justice for them. Both can screw over each other and make even more americans buy from toyota, honda and the other ‘good guys’ building cars/trucks that are not intended to kill/maim/pollute their customer base. This is the next best thing to these jerk offs having to go to prison.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Wouldn’t it be nicer to bring those who planned, approved, executed and concealed the crime to justice without unduly harming the other (vast majority of) VW employees? Clearly the shareholders need to feel real pain as well so those people that are corporations get some motivation to adhere to the law. I just don’t see making huge numbers of innocents suffer to protect the guilty as a good thing. This is in response to the spirit if your post, and not a statement of agreement that the UAW is a punishment.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Agreed, 05. Well said. I’m puzzled by the spirit of vengeance against American workers that pervades so many of these threads.

        The concerted campaign by our corporate masters to turn us against each other, while they merrily hijack the instruments of government with our own uninformed consent to steal our money and our rights, has indeed been successful.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    Good grief…VAG should just shut the damn place down and sell it to Hyundai or somebody who is serious about North American markets.

    And don’t get me started on the UAW…had a BIL who worked in the now-shuttered Chrysler plant in Fenton MO, and missed more than half his scheduled days the last year he worked there. The union protected this numbskull until he got caught selling meth IN THE PLANT and went away to the penitentiary in Fulton MO for 3 years. Protections are fine, but there is a limit. This meathead was still getting partial pay while he went on a year-long drug binge.

    Or how about the guys at the GM plant in Wentzville MO…long term shutdown, they still received 90% of their base pay for doing NOTHING. Several opened businesses, and made plenty of money while GM was still paying their wage, healthcare, etc.

    And don’t get me started on the crybaby Teamsters I have worked with…tell them anything they don’t want to hear, and their immediate answer is “talk to my steward”. Bunch of whiners.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Thanks for your awesome insight, now can you please send me the files to validate your claims otherwise I’m going to point this out at heresay.

      I’m not denying it doesn’t happen from time to time but these are the exceptions that prove the rule (i.e. 99% of union workers are just normal hardworking individuals trying to get by).

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        That’s hilarious. Maybe half of union members are ‘normal hardworking individuals trying to get by’ when they join the unions. Once the union culture corrupts them, only the outsider malcontents are worth the space they take up. Unions are poison for people with character. Why would anyone that wants to achieve their potential, be recognized for their contributions, or be compensated based on their productivity want anything to do with a union? Why would an employer, or society, want anything to do with people that lack those qualities?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      CincyDavid, such are the realities in modern-day America.

      Don’t forget that the UAW has the full faith and credit of these United States backing them. They were already bailed out once and kept working, there’s no reason why they won’t be backed again if it becomes necessary.

      With the US Treasury backing them, there’s no reason why the UAW should not go full-bore and unionize the entire Chattanooga complex.

      No VW employee would dare vote down the UAW and risk losing their job when VW starts to lay off workers due to a slow down in sales.

      Who didn’t see this coming?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        What’s to stop VW from shutting down the whole factory and building cars in Mexico, like they did last time the UAW destroyed their US manufacturing arm?

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          CJ, the US government will threaten VW with endless litigation if VW tries to weasel out and move to Mexico.

          VW is in deep schit in America and the US government, the NLRB AND the UAW know this and will take advantage of this.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            VW can and will plead frailty, or they’ll collapse. EU laws will make it hard for Germany to bail out VW, but the EU will love the news that VW has closed their US operations. The US government just isn’t an existential threat to VW the way that their international predicament is.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          CJ, I can tell you from personal experience that the UAW didn’t destroy VW’s previous attempt at a US manufacturing arm. VW management did that deed all by themselves.

          That personal experience was my purchase of two Westmoreland-built VW’s, the latter a beautiful and sharp-driving new ’86 GTI of which I was oh so proud.

          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. And reliability surveys confirmed I wasn’t alone.

          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.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Would it change your mind if you found out that those US suppliers were used because they were organized and the UAW wanted them to be used?

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Bah… cheap crime show schtick.

            “Would it change your mind if you knew there was a witness?”

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    I’d join the union if they offered quality t-shirts.

    I’m talking heavy fabrics in a variety of colors and durable graphics that don’t dry out and flake off from laundering.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    Good for them, the fear of Unions is always an interesting one. Really, if our relationship with business wasn’t so antagonistic we wouldn’t need unions but businesses in the US have made it clear they have no intent in working in unison but would rather squeeze every penny, nickel, and dime out of the work force, leave them when they get sick, and forget them when they get too old to function then complain when they get taxed because the government has to pick up the tab for their misbehavior.

    VAG’s diesel scandal is a big media frenzy but in practical terms to the company it’s pretty small in the North American market mainly because they haven’t been a big player here. But Chattanooga is going to remain open because VW will eventually get around to making a CUV of size that people want and Chattanooga will be a key facility to make it in.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “it’s pretty small in the North American market mainly because they haven’t been a big player here.”

      Small because not big. That’s the sort of canonical support only a trained expert can offer!

      And don’t think we haven’t caught the clever allusion to the old “Think Small” campaign.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        RideHeight, you’re transparently misquoting Xeranar’s “big/small” comment. It’s clear he was saying that VW’s low sales in North America mean it faces less Dieselgate pain in the US than elsewhere. Given that VW is the #1 or #@ automaker in the world, that makes obvious sense.

        Good Lord, I feel like I’m watching the Benghazi hearings all over again. Is it just too much effort to criticize people for what they actually said?

        • 0 avatar
          Xeranar

          Thanks tony. I was going to finally get around to replying because I saw this written hours ago on my phone and simply turned it off because it felt like it was getting petty. My analysis is pretty much the same one most of the people here acknowledge (i.e. VW is a large global maker but has little impact in the US/North American Market).

          So when the dieselgate shenanigans blow over and arguably they’re going to blow over sooner rather than later in the US they’ll be looking to take advantage of Chattanooga’s large capacity to shill a mid-size/upscale compact CUV.

  • avatar
    scwmcan

    I have to wonder why you decided to put the term skilled trades in quotes, this implies that these workers are not actually skilled trades workers. In our plant at least these people are electricians, welders, pipe fitters, tool makers, and millwrights. I am pretty sure all these trades are included in the definition of skilled trades ( requiring an apprenticeship and recognition with their respective trade schools ( or whatever agency regulates the trades in their state). I don’t think you are doing a service to the accuracy of you article by implying that these workers are not actually skilled trades ( now if these are the janitorial staff than you may have a point, but maintenance is generally the people who fix the robots and other machines on the line, they may not all be good, but they are part of what are generally described as the skilled trades).
    As for the people implying that all union workers are dope using idiots, I think you need to look at the reality of the current job market, maybe things are rosy where you live, but there are university and college graduates doing these jobs ( and much worse including working at McDonald’s and Walmart ) because there are no other good paying jobs with some security ( though admittedly not much anywhere) in the area they work. If you really think that all Union workers are lazy, drug using, no ambition, layabouts, trying to milk the companies they work for out of every penny they make with no concern for the quality of the job they do, or the future of the company they work for, you really have no idea of what really goes on. Yes there are some workers like that ( as in any workplace, unionized or not, I should know I have worked in both, more in non-Union ). And they tend to be the ones who are vocal, but the average worker is like everywhere else, quietly doing the best job they can, trying to earn a decent living, and hoping that their job will still be there next month.
    I get really tired of all the garbage the anti Union side puts out ( and yes there is bs from the other side as well, but they generally don’t tend to attack people who are just trying to make a decent living). Generalizing that all Union workers are crap is not fair to all the hard working Union workers out there.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I’m so used to reading reports like this that my brain just glossed over the distinction he made. His quotes should go on the other side of workers since that’s the proper term for that group. You’re 100% correct in that skilled trade maintenance are the machinists and other skilled trade workers who maintain the facilities. My grandfather was one for Oliver Iron and Steel (and during WWII along with 14 other men single-handedly kept the steel industry in parts for the war effort).

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Skilled trade” in this context is a “term of art.” (Look that up if you aren’t familiar with that.) In this case, it is referring to specialized line workers who have specialized capabilities, not just any guy on the line who is good at his job.


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