UAW officials appeal the recent Volkswagen vote. The union met a midnight deadline on Friday to ask the National Labor Relations Board to reconsider holding another election at the Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant. Citing interference by right-wing politicians and special interest groups, the UAW believed another election would be in the best interest of the workers. After a three-day voting period that ended on February 14th, the final tally was 712 workers against the union and 616 in favor of the measure.
A union victory at the Tennessee plant would have cleared the way for the UAW to attempt other votes in the south. Plants that assemble cars for Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Nissan all lack union representation and the union needed new members.
At the center of the UAW’s appeal of the Volkswagen vote were statements made by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. On February 12 th promised a new line of SUV would be added to the plant’s production if workers turned down the union. A UAW statement condemned Senator Corker’s actions as shameful. Indicating a vote for the union would mean no further growth for the Chattanooga facility was nothing more than a threat to derail the election.
Senator Corker stated he was pleased with the workers at Chattanooga for defeating the measure. The senator also expressed his disappointment that the UAW filed an objection to the vote. “Unfortunately, I have to assume that today’s action may slow down Volkswagen’s final discussions on the new SUV line.” Senator Corker believed the UAW only cares about its own survival and best interests as opposed to the people they represent.
An affirmative vote to unionize the Volkswagen factory would have established a works council, a group of people representing both management and labor. Such a committee decides company polices such as bonuses and working hours. All other Volkswagen factories around the world have a works council. By U.S. law, having such a committee required the presence of a union.
Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF), whose organization supports employees against unionization, maintained the UAW mounted their own coercive campaign by running a phone bank in the days leading up to and during the vote. Despite what should have been an easy win for the UAW, the union lost and now wants “to blame everyone but themselves.” As for outside influences beyond the phone bank, Mix cited President Obama and Volkswagen management in their support for a union at the Chattanooga factory.
In a February 14th closed-door meeting with Maryland Democrats, President Obama accused Republicans of being more concerned about German shareholders than American workers. The President’s words were leaked and believed to have influenced the voting.
Management had its own special interest in supporting the UAW. Chattanooga is the only Volkswagen plant worldwide without a works council. After the election concluded, plant executives expressed an interest in working with state and federal officials to create a works council at the facility. Would other Volkswagen workers de-certify their unions?
The results of the recent vote will most likely stand. Legal experts are exploring a Tennessee works council without the presence of a union and may change the law to accommodate Volkswagen management. The only options left to the UAW are to wait for a ruling and perhaps another quest to unionize the plant in a few years. For now, the National Labor Relations Board has accepted paperwork for sent by UAW officials to appeal the Volkswagen vote.
By Brian T. Yate