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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant have voted overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their representative for the purpose of initiating collective bargaining.
In a two-day election on Thursday and Friday, 152 skilled trades employees cast ballots. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which supervised the election, confirmed that 71% of employees voting favored recognition for Local 42. Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining.
“A key objective for our local union always has been moving toward collective bargaining for the purpose of reaching a multi-year contract between Volkswagen and employees in Chattanooga,” said Mike Cantrell, president of Local 42. “We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining. We believe these paths will give all of us a voice at Volkswagen in due time.”
Cantrell reiterated that the timing of the skilled trades election is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. In its election petition to the NLRB, Local 42 noted that its members asked Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled trades employees in early August — more than a month before the emissions scandal was revealed.
Looking ahead, Cantrell said Local 42 will communicate immediately with Volkswagen leaders — in the U.S. and Germany — about initiating collective bargaining for the skilled trades employees at the earliest possible date.
Collective bargaining is a common practice between employees and employers in the U.S. The NLRB describes collective bargaining as an effort between an employer and employees to “bargain in good faith about wages, hours, vacation time, insurance, safety practices and other subjects.”
Ray Curry, director of UAW Region 8 covering the South, commended Volkswagen employees for exercising their rights in a representation election.
“Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga have had a long journey in the face of intense political opposition, and they have made steady progress,” Curry said. “We’re proud of their courage and persistence. We urge Volkswagen to respect the decision of its employees and recognize the local union as the representative of the skilled trades unit.”
Local 42 has strong support among blue-collar workers in the Chattanooga plant — the only Volkswagen facility in the world that remains unrepresented on the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, the influential body of employee leaders from around the world.
Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the international union’s Transnational Department, said the UAW will continue pressing Volkswagen to fulfill an earlier commitment. In spring 2014, Volkswagen agreed to recognize a UAW local union as the representative of its members in order for the union’s members and the company to enter into collective bargaining.
Casteel urged Volkswagen to drop its plans to appeal the outcome of today’s election.
“It’s overdue time for Volkswagen to refocus on the values that made it a successful brand — environmental sustainability and meaningful employee representation,” Casteel said. ”The hard-working members of UAW Local 42 stand ready to assist in the Volkswagen comeback story. Our hope is that the company now is ready to move forward in the German spirit of co-determination.”
TIMELINE: UAW LOCAL 42
July 2014: Volkswagen employees form UAW Local 42, a new local union providing representation for employees at the company’s Chattanooga plant. Four days later, Volkswagen announces the creation of 2,000 new jobs through the addition of a new mid-size SUV product line at the Chattanooga plant.
September 2014: The Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, German trade union IG Metall, and the UAW sign a letter of intent declaring their joint desire for Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant to be a “UAW-represented facility.”
December 2014: Volkswagen verifies UAW Local 42’s membership at the highest level under the company’s new three-tier Community Organization Engagement policy. Local union leaders initiate biweekly meetings with the Volkswagen Human Resources and monthly meetings with the Volkswagen Chattanooga Executive Committee to discuss matters of concern to employees.
April 2015: In a filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, UAW Local 42 demonstrates that its membership constitutes a majority of Volkswagen’s blue-collar workforce in Chattanooga.
May 2015: UAW Local 42 advances a “vision statement” for establishing a German-style works council at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. The 36-page document, based on a framework agreed to by the UAW and Volkswagen in early 2014, outlines a path for meaningful co-determination between employees and management. To date, Volkswagen has not responded to the vision statement.
August 2015: Members of UAW Local 42 ask Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled trades employees at the Chattanooga plant. The company declines the request.
October 2015: UAW Local 42 files paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a representation election for employees in the skilled trades unit.
November 2015: The NLRB rules in favor of UAW Local 42 and orders an election for 160 skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, rejecting an attempt by the company to block the election.
December 2015: Skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga vote overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their bargaining representative.
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