Together We Win: Auto Organizing Update


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A delegation of Nissan workers and community members marched in a Paris rally in October to attend a rally calling for an end to threats at Nissan in Canton From left: Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson, Bishop Thomas Jenkins, Nissan worker Morris Mock, actor Danny Glover and Christian Hutin, a member of the French Parliament.

Volkswagen Goes Back On Its Word; Nissan Ignores International Pressure

Credibility is important. Whether it’s with customers or employees, once it’s lost, it is incredibly difficult to restore.

Volkswagen is discovering this with its emissions scandal and with its refusal to honor its commitment to its workers at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant.

In the emissions scandal, Volkswagen senior management now faces a criminal investigation into the circumstances that led it to mislead consumers on the environmental impact of its diesel vehicles. With its Chattanooga workforce, the world’s largest automaker promised in writing that it would honor the wishes of its hourly workforce if it demonstrated majority support for a union.

“They have already harmed their reputation extremely with the emissions scandal,” U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told the German newspaper Die Welt in September. “Now they are going even further by refusing to negotiate with the UAW.”

The company in 2014 signed a 10-point agreement with the UAW in which it agreed that if a majority of the blue-collar workforce demonstrated support for the UAW, it would recognize the union as the representative of our members. That agreement followed a National Labor Relations Board-supervised vote which the union lost, but was tainted by heavy outside anti-union interference. The UAW dropped objections to the vote when the agreement was signed. Local 42 was formed in Chattanooga to represent UAW workers.

Volkswagen appeared well on its way to fulfilling its promise when the emissions scandal broke. Frustrated by repeated delays, the skilled-trades employees at the Chattanooga plant in December 2015 voted overwhelmingly for representation for only their unit. The vote fell under an established legal standard that has been consistently upheld by the NLRB and federal appeals courts. In August, the NLRB ordered Volkswagen to collectively bargain with the local union. The company is appealing the order in federal court.

“The bottom line is Volkswagen has no discernible path in court, therefore we have to conclude that the company is merely going to court as a stall tactic,” said UAW Secretary- Treasurer Gary Casteel. “This behavior is inconsistent with Volkswagen’s stated principles of social responsibility and contrary to the commitments it made in the 10-point agreement with the UAW.”

UAW Local 42 Vice President Steve Cochran said as a new year dawns, it is time for the company to start putting both the emissions scandal and the failure to bargain with its employees behind it.

“The company continues to hurt itself with its customers and its workers,” said Cochran. “Its reputation continues to take hits and we cannot afford that. It’s time to respect the decision of the workers.”

The company in September disclosed that the anti-union activists in the so-called American Council of Employees (ACE), which opposes the UAW inside the plant, no longer meets the standard for minimal considerations under Volkswagen’s “Community Organization Engagement” (COE) policy. This policy allows participation in company planning and other meetings based on a group’s number of non-skilled trades members. UAW Local 42, whose members make up most of the blue-collar workforce in the plant, is re-verified at the highest level of the COE policy.

Meanwhile, in Canton, Mississippi, where U.S. workers continue their long global battle with Nissan for a fair vote on union representation, actor Danny Glover travelled to the Paris Auto Show in October to urge the French government to get the company to abide by global labor standards. The French state, with a 20 percent stake, is the largest shareholder of Renault that, in turn, is the largest shareholder of Nissan.

Nissan worker Morris Mock also made the trip to France to speak on behalf of his coworkers who want a union. Mock described intimidation inside the plant where the company shows anti-union videos to workers, who are forced to attend.

“I’m taking a big risk by coming here,” Mock, a 14-year Nissan worker said. “I understand that people think of their family first, but what Nissan is doing there is illegal.”

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