Volkswagen opens the door to the UAW in Chattanooga (Read More…)
Volkswagen is announcing a new policy today that will open the door for multiple labor organizations — including the UAW — to represent workers at its plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., giving the beleaguered union a key achievement in the South.
For the UAW, winning an opportunity to officially represent workers at an assembly plant in the South would be a major accomplishment after years of losing elections at German and Asian auto plants in the U.S.
“We recognize and accept that many of our employees are interested in external representation and we are putting this policy in place so that a constructive dialogue is possible and available for everyone,” Sebastian Patta, executive vice president of human resources for Volkswagen Chattanooga, said in a statement provided exclusively to the Free Press.
However, Volkswagen’s new policy falls short of providing the UAW with a path towards the clear-cut, exclusive recognition that the union had been hoping for.
Volkswagen l allow labor organizations that can prove they represent at least 15% of the automaker’s workers in Chattanooga company’s workers to represent them in workplace discussions.
By Brent Snavely - November 12, 2014
That’s because Volkswagen’s policy fails to recognize the UAW as the only bargaining agent. In fact, Volkswagen’s policy provides three tiers of representation for “labor organizations” and allows any group to act as a representative with at least 15% of workers signed up as members.
Groups that can prove they have 15% of members can meet monthly with Volkswagen’s human resources executives. Groups that can prove they represent 30% and then 45% of workers gain additional representation rights, according to a copy of the policy obtained by the Free Press.
However, any labor group that wants to become the exclusive bargaining agent must apply to the National Labor Relations Board and prove it represents more than 50% of workers.
But even with the possibility of multiple labor groups representing workers, Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and policy group at Center for Automotive Research, said the UAW has passed a major milestone in its battle to gain members in the South.
“We are no longer talking about whether or not there will be a union at Volkswagen. We are talking about which union or unions will be there,” she said.
UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel told the Free Press in September that more than 750 workers have joined. “We are confident that Volkswagen is going to deal with them as a members union on issues that pertain to them.”
Under the new VW policy announced today, an organization at the Chattanooga plant must exist for the primary purpose of representing employees and their interests to employers consistent with the National Labor Relations Act.
Volkswagen said its “Community Organization Engagement” policy offers labor unions a three levels of engagement, depending on the number of employees represented.
“Of course, any employee can approach Volkswagen at any time with an idea or a concern,” said Ryan Rose, general manager of human resources at the Chattanooga plant. “But we wanted to extend these additional opportunities to groups of employees who want to talk with Volkswagen about issues of common interest.”
Maury Nicely, a labor lawyer who works with anti-UAW workers, said Volkswagen’s new policy could be viewed as a win for both the UAW and the American Council of Employees.
“As I understand it, the policy is going to offer the opportunity for any group that gets 15% of support to get a seat at the table with Volkswagen,” Nicely said. “It actually is going to open the door to groups in addition to the UAW.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday was downplaying the new policy even before it was officially announced.
“I don’t think there’s really any new news in this beyond what they said before, but we need to let them speak for themselves on this,” Haslam told the Associated Press.
Still, Volkswagen — to a greater extent than any other Asian or German automaker with plants in the South — has been receptive to the idea of union representation at its plant.
“Volkswagen has a long tradition of positive employee engagement at our plants around the world and we welcome this in our company,” Patta said.
Volkswagen signed a neutrality agreement with the UAW in January several weeks before a representation election was held. But politicians in Tennessee — including Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker — urged workers at the plant to reject the UAW.
In February, workers at the three-year-old Chattanooga factory voted 712-626 against UAW representation.
The loss shocked UAW leaders, who accused Tennessee politicians of interfering with the election. The UAW initially filed a challenge to that election with the National Labor Relations Board but dropped the charge in April.
The UAW’s drive to organize workers in the South also includes organizing drives at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama and Nissan plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.
The UAW has gained some members in recent years as the Detroit Three have hired more workers and as it has won organizing drives with casinos and higher education workers.
Nevertheless, the UAW’s Bob King, when he was elected president in 2010, said the union’s survival depends on organizing Asian- and German-owned auto plants because it can only effectively bargain for better wages and benefits if it represents workers across the automotive industry.
King, along with current UAW President Dennis Williams, aggressively courted officials from the influential German labor union IG Metall.
In September, IG Metall and Volkswagen’s Global Group Works Council signed an agreement outlining their joint efforts to gain labor representation at the Chattanooga plant, including the goal of the UAW gaining “exclusive majority status and recognition of this by Volkswagen.”
Posted by Admin on 11/12 at 05:10 PM