CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – State lawmakers held a news conference today to support Volkswagen workers who are demanding an end to interference from outside special interest groups in the union representation election to be held at the corporation’s Chattanooga plant this week. They later joined a larger group of Tennessee state representatives, including Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh and Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, at a news conference in Nashville to speak in favor of allowing workers to exercise their right to choose union representation without fear of retribution or outside pressure.
The workers will vote in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Feb. 12–14, 2014. Following the election announcement, special interest groups like the National Right to Work Committee and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform launched an intense campaign in Chattanooga, aimed at swaying the outcome of the vote.
“We value the economic impact that Volkswagen has had on Chattanooga. Volkswagen and the UAW agreed to an election process that gives workers the rare opportunity to express their desire and make a decision on union representation in an environment that is free from intimidation and coercion,” said JoAnne Favors, who represents the 28th District in the state House of Representatives, which includes Chattanooga. “Volkswagen has asked third parties to remain neutral and leave the decision to the workers and we’re calling on them to honor that request.”
“It’s an outrage that state Republican leaders would threaten jobs at the Volkswagen plant by claiming they would vote against incentives to their employer if the workers choose to unionize,” said Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville. “We should all reject the type of scare tactics and misinformation coming from special interest groups and Republican elected officials. The fact of the matter is that the GM plant in Spring Hill has had union representation for decades and the only result has been a better working relationship between management and workers, resulting in higher productivity and better wages for employees.”
Volkswagen workers are hoping for a new collaborative approach with Volkswagen Group of America (VWGOA) based on the principles of co-determination that would include the formation of a works council at its Chattanooga facility. This would be the first works council established in the United States.
“We appreciate that our state lawmakers and neighbors like Reps. JoAnne Favors and Sherry Jones are hearing us,” said Volkswagen worker John Wright. “This is our election, our decision, our community and our workplace.”
“Co-determination means that we as workers will have a voice and can help make Volkswagen stronger in safety, job security, efficiency and other issues,” said Volkswagen worker Justin King. “It is unfair that people who don’t even work at Volkswagen are trying to influence our vote. These outside special interests should leave the vote to those that it actually matters to –workers and our families.”
Chattanooga is the only major Volkswagen assembly facility without labor representation. With a works council, the Chattanooga plant would have a seat at the VW Global Group Works Council. Ultimately, such a labor relations model would give workers an integral role in co-managing the company and providing input on workplace improvements that would contribute to the success of the company and the workers.
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