Chattanooga VW Workers Vote for a Union: UAW

VWCHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant have voted overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their representative for the purpose of initiating collective bargaining.

In a two-day election on Thursday and Friday, 152 skilled trades employees cast ballots. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which supervised the election, confirmed that 71% of employees voting favored recognition for Local 42. Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining.

“A key objective for our local union always has been 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 have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining. We believe these paths will give all of us a voice at Volkswagen in due time.”

Cantrell reiterated that the timing of the skilled trades election is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. In its election petition to the NLRB, Local 42 noted that its members asked Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled trades employees in early August — more than a month before the emissions scandal was revealed.

Looking ahead, Cantrell said Local 42 will communicate immediately with Volkswagen leaders — in the U.S. and Germany — about initiating collective bargaining for the skilled trades employees at the earliest possible date.

Collective bargaining is a common practice between employees and employers in the U.S. 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.”

Ray Curry, director of UAW Region 8 covering the South, commended Volkswagen employees for exercising their rights in a representation election.

“Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga have had a long journey in the face of intense political opposition, and they have made steady progress,” Curry said. “We’re proud of their courage and persistence. We urge Volkswagen to respect the decision of its employees and recognize the local union as the representative of the skilled trades unit.”

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 employee leaders from around the world.

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the international union’s Transnational Department, said the UAW will continue pressing Volkswagen to fulfill an earlier commitment. In spring 2014, Volkswagen agreed to recognize a UAW local union as the representative of its members in order for the union’s members and the company to enter into collective bargaining.

Casteel urged Volkswagen to drop its plans to appeal the outcome of today’s election.

“It’s overdue time for Volkswagen to refocus on the values that made it a successful brand — environmental sustainability and meaningful employee representation,” Casteel said. ”The hard-working members of UAW Local 42 stand ready to assist in the Volkswagen comeback story. Our hope is that the company now is ready to move forward in the German spirit of co-determination.”

From UAW.org

Volkswagen objected to the new vote favoring the UAW to represent just 162 skilled-trades workers, arguing that all of the plant’s 1,400 blue-collar workers should have a say over union issues. The German automaker said it plans to appeal the ruling allowing the vote to the full National Labor Relations Board.

“We believe that a union of only maintenance employees fractures our workforce and does not take into account the overwhelming community of interest shared between our maintenance and production employees,” the company said in a statement.

The vote comes nearly 20 months after the union was narrowly defeated in an election involving all hourly employees at the plant. The UAW has been thwarted for decades in attempts to represent workers outside of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

From Al Jazeera.

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