Strike Two: UAW Again Fails to Unionize Volkswagen Plant

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
strike two uaw again fails to unionize volkswagen plant

The results of a Friday vote are in, and Volkswagen can breathe a sigh of relief. Five years after the United Auto Workers first attempted to place the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant under its umbrella, a second vote has yielded the same results.

Weeks and months of acrimony, ads, accusations, and other seemingly unavoidable aspects of union organizing led to a narrow win for the no-union side. As before, Southern auto plants remain just beyond the grasp of the UAW.

Volkswagen was seen as a ripe target for the UAW to gain a toehold south of the Ohio River, even after a 2014 vote returned 712 in favor of the status quo and 626 backing UAW representation. This time around the vote was even closer — 833 against UAW, 776 in favor, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Ninety-three percent of eligible workers voted.

Both sides hurled the usual tropes at each other in the run-up to the vote, a decision VW successfully delayed via an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board. Anti-labor forces pointed to the UAW’s Fiat Chrysler corruption scandal, which, unhappily for UAW brass, reinforced a laundry list of stereotypes about well-fed, back-scratching labor execs and their equally greedy corporate partners. Pro-union types pointed to VW’s own history of nefarious deeds, topmost being the recent diesel emissions scandal.

You could search a military bunker and turn up less ammunition.

The vote gives VW a reason not to bargain with a group of Chattanooga maintenance workers who voted to unionize a year after the first failed attempt to unionize the plant. The automaker refuses to bargain with the group, claiming such negotiations should include all workers and maintenance staff, not just a subset of its workforce.

“Clearly Volkswagen was able to delay bargaining with maintenance [workers] and ultimately this vote among all production and maintenance workers through legal games until they could undermine the vote,” said UAW International spokesman Brian Rothenberg.

VW’s Chattanooga plant, home to the Passat and Atlas, employs about 3,500 workers, but will soon see its ranks swell. A number of vehicles could roll out of the Tennessee facility in the coming years; among them, a sportier Atlas-based SUV and two (or more) electric MEB-platform vehicles. In January, VW pledged $800 million towards the plant’s expansion.

Not only would bringing Chattanooga into its fold allow UAW to breach that pesky Southern wall, it would give its own ranks a much-needed boost. The union’s membership has declined drastically since its heyday in the 1970s.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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  • KingShango KingShango on Jun 15, 2019

    Is it even possible for the workers there to join IG Metall instead?

  • R Henry R Henry on Jun 16, 2019

    Ugh. It is so dissappointing when political discourse overwhelms the car talk.

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Jun 16, 2019

      That's because the two are inextricably intertwined in the real world. Political actions drive the car industry, and the voting workers of the US car industry choose the representatives that develop legislation that determine the path of the car industry. Americans always get exactly what they deserve, because we vote for it.

  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.
  • HunterS This thing has had more farewell tours than Cher.
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