U.S. Volkswagen Workers Take Another Stab at Unionization

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
u s volkswagen workers take another stab at unionization

If at first you don’t succeed…

Following a narrow loss in February 2014, the United Auto Workers hopes that a vote set for mid-June in Chattanooga will be the big break it’s been looking for. Besides wishing to represent the thousands of workers at Volkswagen’s sole U.S. assembly plant, the UAW desperately wants to make inroads among foreign automakers operating in the South that have so far resisted its overtures.

Despite agreeing to play nice in the lead-up to the vote, both sides accuse the other of dirty tactics.

After the UAW petitioned the National Labor Relations Board last month to set a date for the vote, Reuters reports that workers will sit down to decide their labor fate from June 12th to 14th.

VW’s Chattanooga plant, which opened in 2011, employs about 1,700 workers. Its future looks bright, with the automaker planning to expand production and swell its workforce ranks with new internal combustion and electric vehicle models. The first EV should roll out of the plant in 2022.

The 2014 vote came close to securing the UAW a win. Ultimately, workers voted 712 to 626 to stay a non-union shop.

Volkswagen’s official position on the issue is a neutral one, though labor activists claim the company abandoned its neutrality by issuing a letter to employees last month. In it, the automaker reportedly claimed workers could achieve more through “open dialogue” than through a union. Earlier this month, VW won in its bid to delay the vote, citing the need to challenge a smaller UAW bargaining unit at the facility.

In 2015, a group of 160 skilled trade maintenance workers voted to unionize. In turn, VW said it wouldn’t bargain with the UAW-represented group unless their unit also contained production workers.

As laid out by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, both sides in the UAW-VW battle are throwing rocks, albeit not directly. Two groups — the Center for Union Facts and the Center for VW Facts — have taken out ads against each other. The pro-union group is a fan of referencing VW’s diesel emissions scandal as proof of the company’s “culture of corruption,” while the anti-union group points to UAW’s own corruption scandal, claiming the union’s executives use members’ dues for personal gain.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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  • Mason Mason on May 30, 2019

    jkross22, The difference is VW is actually a productive entity, they make a product, put food on people's tables, and support an economy. The UAW leach simply sucks the life out of all of the above until there is nothing left. Sorry to say for all the union nut huggers but we are a first world country and at the top of the food chain. Don't like your wages? Benefits? Go start your own business and see how life is like in the real world. Get some skin in the game. Ask a Small business owner what his premium is, and his deductable on top of that. Or how much vacation he accrues. Or how many years - READ - sleepless nights - he has to put in before he gets a raise. Chattanooga better wake up or they will create a wasteland just like Detroit.

  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on May 30, 2019

    The biggest enemy of unions today is the internet and the free flow of information, labor protection laws, and OSHA. With few exceptions, companies can no longer bully their employees, force them to work in unsafe conditions, make them work for below market rates, and cover up their abuses. Today, it is very hard for a company engage in such behavior on a sustained basis, although violations do occur. In its sales pitch to the Chattanooga workers, the UAW must play up the supposed abuses, and *convince* the workers they are being mistreated. But the transplants have learned to avoid these abuses, and therefore most of the workers are happy enough. Job security can't possibly be a selling point, because that's laughable. Negotiating decent exit terms for downsized workers would be a benefit, but that's about all I can think of.

    • See 17 previous
    • Brn Brn on Jun 03, 2019

      @brn Mbella, I'm not talking about contract workers. I'm not talking about salary alone. Professionals, even with benefits added, get paid substantially less than private sector professionals. Also, let's not forget that benefits for professionals in similarly sized organizations get similar benefits. You asked one example. You got several. I even went into detail on one below. Sgeffe also went into detail. I'm sorry if they go against the stereotype.

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