published Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Volkswagen executive says no talks with union

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A top executive of Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant said Monday he knows of no talks between VW officials and the United Auto Workers and the factory already offers a competitive pay package for employees.

Don Jackson, the Chattanooga plant's president of manufacturing, said at a Traverse City, Mich., industry seminar that no one at the local operation has been involved with the UAW, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Jackson stopped short of denying any discussions between the UAW and VW officials in Germany, however.

Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of Edmunds.com, said VW management may view unionizing the plant as "a double-edge sword."

"When you look at how competitive the auto industry is, ... what can be fair and reasonable on an individual worker basis can put a company on an uncompetitive footing," Anwyl said.

UAW southern region director Gary Casteel said last month the automaker has had an organized workforce globally and that makes executives and employees at the new Chattanooga assembly plant "more willing to talk to unions about representation."

Casteel said the UAW has had some VW workers in Chattanooga reach out to the union, and he claimed there have been discussions with VW executives.

Frank Fischer, chief executive of the Chattanooga plant, said recently that a decision on representation will be up to its employees.

The UAW has tried unsuccessfully to unionize the so-called transplants -- factories built in the South by foreign-owned automakers.

Jackson declined to reveal Volkswagen's total labor cost for wages and benefits, according to the Detroit Free Press. The company's hourly wage starts $14.50 per hour, increasing to about $20 per hour over a three-year period.

"We feel like we are very competitive in the market and we have great benefits," Jackson said.

Anwyl said the UAW may see "a bit of an opening" at the VW plant in Chattanooga because of the company's history with unions.

Many of VW's plants worldwide have union representation, including some workers at the company's only other North American plant in Puebla, Mexico.

The question in Chattanooga, Anwyl said, is what would the union offer employees enough to organize them.

"So far it hasn't resonated with other plants," he said about the South's foreign contingent of auto assembly factories.

Anwyl said he's not aware of any kind of UAW representation within VW that would make it different from what it does with the Big Three U.S. automakers.

"They'd need to get voted in," he said.

The $1 billion Chattanooga plant started producing customer cars in May. Sales for the new midsize Passat are expected to start in September at dealerships throughout the country.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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tylermhong said...

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August 2, 2011 at 3:53 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

I knew someone who worked at VW and they said VW was MAINLY hiring Germans, COLLEGE GRADS, blacks and DETROIT WORKERS (400)...and I personaly know for a fact of one college grad starting on the production line so don't tell me college grads didn't get some of those jobs...who knows how many others did too...but don;t get me wrong here College grads need jobs too...I'm only saying HS grads are down the "line" in getting some of these jobs.

I agree with Shock about the Unions...they no longer serve a real purpose...they did once upon a time but not now.

And I don't consider $14.50 an hour a "slave wage" either...not in this economy...or ANY economy.

August 2, 2011 at 11:45 a.m.
kalaohio said...

Glad to hear that VW has said no to the UAW International. The new people do not need to have someone looking over their shoulder pretending to take care of them. All the UAW wants from them is their money, in the form of Union dues. Also, being that it's a new operation and these people of Tennessee need a great place like VW to work, the UAW International should just butt out. Take care of the members that they have already and the retiree's, too. So far, they haven't done such a good job with the retiree's though.

August 2, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.
noapathy said...

Their wages are fine, workers get $1 raise within the 1st 6 months. They were told they would have to vote to have them in and the majority does not want it. Sorry Unions! They don't want to pay you to get competive pay, they're already getting it....along with great benefits and employee appreciation is outstanding. If they need them in the future, they'll still be there and willing, you can bet on that.

August 2, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.
rolando said...

Wanna see what happens when an automobile factory unionizes? Pick any American-made car/truck...the ones they haven't killed yet, anyway.

Or when any public school unionizes, for that matter [if there are any; although the Dept of Failed-Ed takes much of the blame.

Or any government at any level. Talk about featherbedding...

August 2, 2011 at 4:54 p.m.
tifosi said...
August 2, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
MasterChefLen said...

The quality (or lack there of) of union workers in the Chattanooga area can be easily seen by driving past the lazy bum protesters that picket work sites because they think they are ENTITLED to get a job at work site. These bums picket because they will not work (if you can it work) for what the employer is willing to pay. It's funny these picketers seem to keep 9 AM to 3 PM hours at their picket sites, they cut out early on Fridays and don't picket on weekends. Unions equate to to mafia.

August 2, 2011 at 8:59 p.m.
rolando said...

That's their normal working hours even when they are working at their union-controlled jobs, MasterChef.

Then if one of them calls in sick -- or just stays in bed -- all the rest of his/her "team" goes home, too...just like they do at a real job.

August 2, 2011 at 9:47 p.m.
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