CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — UAW Local 42 today filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a representation election for employees in the maintenance, or skilled trades, unit of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.
“A key objective for our local union always has been, and still is, 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 support our colleagues in the skilled trades as they move toward formal recognition of their unit.”
Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining. 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.”
Collective bargaining is a common practice between employees and employers in the U.S. On Wednesday, the Local 42 membership voted overwhelmingly to support a proposal by skilled trades employees to seek a representation election. No further decisions have been made at this time by the Local 42 membership.
In December 2014, Local 42 secured limited considerations under Volkswagen’s Community Organization Engagement policy. Under the policy, which is unique to the company’s Chattanooga facility, the local union meets regularly with plant managers regarding matters of concern to employees such as shift scheduling. Earlier this month, the company re-verified Local 42’s membership at the highest level under the policy.
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 Volkswagen employee leaders from around the world.
“Volkswagen’s policy in Chattanooga was a gesture and our local union has engaged accordingly,” said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW International union and director of the union’s Transnational Department. “At the end of the day, the policy cannot be a substitute for meaningful employee representation and co-determination with management.”
Casteel added: “The international union will provide ongoing technical assistance to the local union as it strives toward collective bargaining and its rightful seat on the Global Group Works Council.”
Casteel and Cantrell both emphasized that the timing of the skilled trades filing with the NLRB is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
“We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining,” Cantrell said. “We have been considering this option for some time. All options have been, and will remain, on the table.”
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.
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