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Latest News - September 2014

September 28, 2014
UAW gains allies in bid to organize VW
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press

A United Auto Workers official says the union has taken “a big step” toward gaining representation of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga employees and creation of a first-in-the-U.S. works council at the plant.The UAW, VW’s global group works council and European union IG Metall have signed a letter of intent to jointly commit to organizing the Chattanooga plant as “a UAW-represented facility” and start the process of forming a works council.“This is unique,” said Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer. “I don’t know of any formal agreement between organizations of this nature.”The letter said the parties agree to work for a definitive agreement on matters contained in a “foundation document” specifying certain issues such as a joint training program, internships and communications. Casteel said all the parties are willing to put resources to the effort including financing, though how much wasn’t specified.However, National Right to Work Vice President Patrick Semmens termed the document “a lot of double talk.”He said it papers over “the fact that Detroit-based UAW officials are colluding with a German union and works council members to force VW Chattanooga team members under union control without a secret ballot vote.”The letter of intent comes after a group of anti-UAW plant workers moved ahead with its own unionizing initiative. The group hopes to gather enough signatures to have an election at the plant for the American Council of Employees.ACE wants to counter UAW Local 42, which the union set up in June with hopes of gaining enough members that VW will recognize it.“If they’re dealing with the local, in essence they’ve recognized it,” Casteel said. Whether that recognition is as a members-only unit or exclusive representative has to be worked out between the local and the VW, he said.Casteel said that Local 42, a nondues-paying unit, has over a majority of the VW plant’s hourly employees as members. He wouldn’t say how many.“We’ve verified with VW our level of support,” Casteel said.Casteel said the letter of intent shows alignment with the automaker’s global works council, which is “one of the most powerful forces in VW.” Bernd Osterloh, the group’s chairman, and Frank Patta, its general secretary, signed the letter.The UAW official said IG Metall is the most powerful labor union in Germany.“This is the announcement of a partnership,” Casteel said, adding that the letter and the foundation document are specific to Chattanooga.But, Semmens said the document puts every VW employee on notice that “Detroit UAW bosses intend to use any Local 42 membership cards to impose the UAW on all workers without a secret ballot vote.”“At this point, there should be no doubt that the real source of outside interference in Chattanooga is from Detroit and Europe. The workers spoke clearly in a secret ballot vote last year and that decision should not be overturned because of a backroom deal negotiated in Germany or Detroit,” he said.In February, the UAW lost a widely watched National Labor Relations Board election at the Chattanooga plant, 712 to 626.VW has said it wants to set up the works council, a labor board of blue- and white-collar workers that oversees day-to-day issues such as employee training and safety. The German automaker has works councils at nearly all its plants worldwide. Experts say that under U.S. labor law, a works council can’t be formed without a union.




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