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Latest News - December 2014

December 29, 2014
Year in Review: Volkswagen and the dueling unions
Source: NOOGA
By: Chloé Morrison

It's been a tumultuous year for the United Auto Workers union in their efforts to organize Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant. 

Here's a recap of how the year went for the UAW, Volkswagen and a rival union group at the plant. 

The February election 


After years of work, the UAW was able to gain ground with VW because some members of the company want Chattanooga's plant to be a member of Volkswagen's Global Works Council. It's one of the only plants in the world that isn't a member. 

Even before there was talk of an official election, VW officials always said it was the workers' decision when questioned about the possibility of a union. 

The election followed weeks of contentious input from politicians, members of the community and local business leaders.

Pre-election action also included some Volkswagen employees who created a nonprofit to oppose UAW efforts. That group created a website called No2UAW. 

Ultimately, Volkswagen employees voted against representation by the United Auto Workers union in a 712–626 vote Feb. 14.

Participation in the election was 89 percent, and 1,338 votes were cast.

Post-election action 
The week after the election, UAW leaders filed an appeal, calling it an outrage that "politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that would grow jobs in Tennessee."

In April, as reporters and lawyers were in the courtroom waiting for a hearing regarding the UAW's appeal to begin, leaders announced they would withdraw their objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board. 

Bob King, who was UAW president at the time, said in a prepared statement that leaders made the decision in the "best interests of Volkswagen employees, the automaker and economic development in Chattanooga."

Since then, there have been reports that a deal between VW and the UAW prompted the union to drop its appeal. 

The SUV factor


Recently, The Associated Press reported that if the UAW would cooperate with efforts for Chattanooga to win the new SUV and drop its challenge with the National Labor Relations Board, Volkswagen would recognize the UAW and give it the authority to bargain on behalf of VW employees. 

Chattanooga did land production of the new SUV. 

In July, reaffirming their 2018 goal of selling 800,000 vehicles annually, Volkswagen leaders announced that the new midsized SUV would be made here and that the $900 million investment would bring 2,000 jobs to the area. 

Officials also announced a national research, development and planning center, which will be located here and add 200 jobs. 

Hundreds of community members celebrated the announcement at the Hunter Museum of American Art. Click here to read about that. 

The UAW's Local 42

Also in July, the UAW announced that it would start a chapter called Local 42. The national organization authorized Local 42 in March, leaders said.

UAW leaders said that move was one step toward working with Volkswagen on getting a German-style works council.

At that time, UAW leaders referenced a consensus between the union and the company that if Local 42 got enough members, the company would recognize it to represent VW workers. 

The company denied any official agreement. 

After the formation of Local 42, members started working to gain support from other VW employees and get the right to bargain collectively. 

American Council of Employees

Then, Volkswagen employees—some of whom were involved in the No2UAW effort—created their own union called American Council of Employees in an effort to oppose Local 42. 

And last month, Volkswagen leaders announced a new policy that outlines guidelines for engagement opportunities between the company and any labor organization whose membership includes a significant percentage of Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga.

Members of American Council of Employees praised Volkswagen's policy when it was announced with hopes that it would provide a more level playing field.

Both unions began working toward meeting the requirements for engagement. Click here for more. 

UAW's signatures

Earlier this month, UAW officials said that the union has support that exceeds the majority of workers at Volkswagen's plant, but they don't want another election. 

They want the company to voluntarily recognize them for the purpose of collective bargaining and start talking to company leaders about wages, according to AutoNews.com. 

And VW leaders said that an independent audit found that the UAW has enough employee support—at least 45 percent of employees—to reach the highest level of engagement with the company. 

At that time, members of American Council of Employees said they would "keep on offering the opportunity to all employees for fair representation."

ACE's challenge 
Most recently, American Council of Employees challenged the UAW's signatures, which an independent auditor approved.

ACE officials said that they delivered "hundreds of documents revoking allegedly collected UAW authorization signatures." 

The documents, delivered directly to the auditors at Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough, detail "hundreds of examples of employees rescinding any previous authorizations they may have signed in support of UAW representation," ACE leaders said in a prepared statement. 

But Mike Cantrell, president of UAW Local 42, said that ACE's claims are "bogus and without merit." 

 

 


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