The UAW today called on Congress to take a comprehensive look at the country’s labor laws and NLRB rules that made it almost impossible for Volkswagen workers to form a union.
“VW workers endured a system where even when they voted, the company refused to bargain,” said Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the UAW. “Clearly Volkswagen was able to delay bargaining with maintenance and ultimately this vote among all production and maintenance workers through legal games until they could undermine the vote.”
“Our labor laws are broken,” said Rothenberg. “Workers should not have to endure threats and intimidation in order to obtain the right to collectively bargain. The law doesn’t serve workers, it caters to clever lawyers who are able to manipulate the NLRB process.”
Tracy Romero, UAW organizing director, said she was proud of the Chattanooga Volkswagen workers in the face of the fear they endured.
“The Company ran a brutal campaign of fear and misinformation,” said Romero. Fear of the loss of the plant; fear of their participation in the union effort; fear through misinformation about the UAW; fear about current benefits in contract negotiations. Over a period of nine weeks – an unprecedented length of time due to legal gamesmanship – Volkswagen was able to break the will of enough workers to destroy their majority.”
Romero indicated that the UAW intends to ask for the help of VW labor leaders in Europe to help protect Chattanooga workers from any retaliation. “Chattanooga workers deserve the right to vote and deserve the right to be treated fairly and we will hold Wolfsburg to that.”
While political interference and right-wing group expenditures did contribute to the loss, Rothenberg said the current state of American labor laws particularly made the Volkswagen effort difficult.
“Here you have maintenance workers who voted for a contract and Volkswagen just refused to follow the law and bargain. They insisted that maintenance and production vote together. So, three years later maintenance and production ask to vote and VW stands in their way,” said Rothenberg. “This is a system designed to benefit corporate lawyers not protect worker rights.”
By law, VW workers will have to wait one year before seeking another election. “Ultimately this has always been about Chattanooga workers who are the only VW workers in the world without a union,” said Chattanooga UAW Local 42 Chairman Steve Cochran. “If people wonder why the middle class is disappearing in this country, it’s because it is nearly impossible for workers to get access to collective bargaining.”
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