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Vote at Tennessee VW plant this week will impact UAW’s future in US (Read More…)

By Brent Snavely
Feb. 9, 2014 | lansingstatejournal.com

The UAW and its President Bob King could bring home the biggest victory for organized labor in decades
this week if workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant vote to unionize — a possible first step in opening up the non-union South for organizing campaigns.

A UAW defeat, on the other hand, would be a brutal setback for an organization whose membership has dwindled from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979 to less than 400,000. A losing vote could threaten other campaigns under way at auto plants in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee and amplify a perception in some quarters that unions have outlived their time.

With such high stakes, the campaign in Chattanooga has turned the right-to-work state into a national union battleground. Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, both Republicans, have spoken out against the union. Volkswagen has not interfered and is already used to union-style representation at its plants.

“If they lose this vote, then it is going to set them back in a big way because this vote will be taken with a company that is not actively opposing them,” said Dennis Cuneo, a managing partner of pro-management law firm Fisher & Phillips. “If they win, they are going to have momentum as they go after similarly situated companies.”

The UAW says that more than half of the 3,200 workers at the plant support organizing. Opponents say the UAW tricked some workers into signing cards expressing support, and they have been pushing for a vote to settle the issue.

“Those people who are opposed to representation, that is all I have heard from them, is, ‘Give them an election, give them an election,’ ” UAW Regional Director Gary Casteel told the Free Press. “This should end the argument.”
The election, from Wednesday to Friday, will be supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

For more than a year, Chattanooga has been ground zero for labor supporters and opponents.

Mike Burton, a Volkswagen employee who doesn’t support the union, set up the website, http://www.no2uaw.com, which says 611 petitions have been signed by workers opposed to union representation.

Burton’s group, Southern Momentum, has asked for permission to make presentations to Volkswagen employees about the drawbacks of forming a union, but the company has declined the request, said Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga labor lawyer representing Southern Momentum.

“People here in the southern automotive industry point and say, ‘We see the southern auto industry blooming,’ ” Nicely said. “We would be ignoring reality if we did not recognize that one of the reasons these automakers have chosen the Southeast has been because of the UAW and the impact it has had on the ... northern auto industry.”

King is betting this week’s election will prove the union can prevail in an anti-union environment.
“It will show that workers everywhere, given the opportunity to be in a union, will choose (union) representation,” King said.
Brent Snavely is a reporter with the Detroit Free Press

Posted by Admin on 02/10 at 04:04 PM
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