Skilled trades workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant, members of UAW Local 42, in December voted to join the UAW, a decision the National Labor Relations Board affirmed in March.
But the automaker continues to drag the representation fight out in violation of U.S. labor law by claiming that all of its union-eligible workers — production and skilled trades — should be included in the potential bargaining unit. That position was rejected by the board in April.
“The employees in the petitioned for-unit are readily identifiable as a group, as it consists of all maintenance employees employed by the employer at its Chattanooga, Tennessee facility,” the NRLB wrote in its order. “They also share a community of interest under the traditional criteria – similar job functions; shared skills, qualifications, and training; supervision separate from the production employees’; wages different from the production employees’; hours and scheduling different from production employees’; other unique terms and conditions of employment and a human resources manager dedicated solely to maintenance employees.”
Local union members applauded the order. “The NLRB supervised a fair election at the plant and then promptly certified the results,” said Mike Cantrell, president of UAW Local 42. “We’re glad to see the decision upheld and we look forward to meeting Volkswagen at the collective bargaining table in the near future.”
Local 42 skilled trades members are ready to exercise their rights to enter into negotiations with the automaker on a first-ever contract. They also want to join Volkswagen workers around the world as part of the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, the influential body of employee leaders from around the world. Virtually every Volkswagen plant around the world has union representation and is seated on the council — except for workers in Chattanooga. “It’s long past time for the company to respect the decision of the NRLB and Volkswagen’s skilled-trades workers,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel,who directs the union’s Transnational Department. “They should come to the table in good faith and bargain a contract that will benefit the workers, the company and the community. It’s time for Volkswagen to move forward.”
The company and union representatives were expected to meet sometime in May for additional discussion. It is unacceptable that Volkswagen has not agreed to bargain a contract, Casteel said.
“The reality is: Our UAW local union already represents a majority of the blue-collar workforce in Chattanooga. Volkswagen knows this because the company has verified our substantial membership level. If Volkswagen wants meaningful employee representation, the company is free to recognize the local union as the representative of its members, as it committed to do previously.”
Key Events in Volkswagen workers’ drive for UAW representation
Workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant petition the National Labor Relations Board for a representation election. Following an intense anti-union campaign launched by business groups and anti-union Tennessee politicians – including U.S. Senator Bob Corker who claimed that he was told the plant would receive a new product if the workers voted the union down – the vote fails. Due to the undue political interference in the election, the UAW files an objection with the NRLB.
The UAW withdraws the objection after securing an agreement with Volkswagen that the company will recognize the union as the representative of its members.
Local 42 receives its charter from the UAW to represent workers at the Volkswagen plant. Meanwhile, Volkswagen announces a new crossover vehicle is announced for the plant. State officials said the decision on incentives was not related to the February union vote.
Members of UAW Local 42 ask Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of its skilled-trades employees at the Chattanooga plant. The company declines the request.
UAW Local 42 files paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a representation election for employees in the skilled-trades unit.
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.
Skilled-trades employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga vote overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their bargaining representative. The NLRB confirms that 71 percent of employees voting favored recognition for UAW Local 42. Volkswagen refuses to recognize UAW Local 42 or enter into collective bargaining, and asks the NLRB for a review of the election.
UAW Local 42 files charges with the NLRB stipulating that Volkswagen is violating the National Labor Relations Act and has “unlawfully continued to refuse to bargain.”
The NLRB denies Volkswagen’s request for a review of the December election, in effect, upholding the election and its results. Days later, the NLRB issues a complaint against Volkswagen stipulating “unfair labor practices” and requiring the company to “bargain in good faith” with the skilled-trades employees.
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