published Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Volkswagen sides with UAW on appeal

Factory workers stand near the assembly line in the assembly center at the Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant.
Factory workers stand near the assembly line in the assembly center at the Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
Poll
Should there be another UAW vote at VW?

The United Auto Workers and Volkswagen Group of America have filed their opposition to two groups supporting some Chattanooga VW workers who want to intervene in the union's appeal for a new election at the plant.

The two groups fired back Friday, with an attorney for one saying the union is doing "everything it can to make sure that no one can speak out in opposition to the UAW."

Volkswagen, in its first official statement since the UAW filed the National Labor Relations Board appeal Feb. 21, said the company doesn't support efforts by Southern Momentum and the National Right to Work Foundation to intervene in the appeal. VW employees voted 712 to 626 to not align with the union, but the UAW alleges outside pressure was brought to bear.

In a one-page letter, VW attorney Steven Swirsky said the company "does not believe there is any basis for the motions to intervene to be granted." The attorney said the letter responds to a request for VW's position by Nancy Wilson, acting NLRB regional director in Atlanta.

The letter said that VW "defers to the NLRB to make the appropriate decision after considering the motions."

The UAW, meanwhile, said in its filing that neither anti-UAW group has standing to intervene.

The union said neither group purports to be a labor organization; neither was a party to the election and their reasons for intervention have no proper basis.

The NLRB's proceedings are non-adversarial, the UAW said, and the board will have an independent obligation to determine whether there is sufficient factual and legal basis to overturn the election.

Maury Nicely, an attorney for Southern Momentum, said the UAW signed a neutrality agreement with VW that already placed a "gag order" on management employees, preventing them from offering their thoughts, opinions and experiences concerning the union.

Now, Nicely said, there's the potential for the UAW alone to offer its side of the dispute before the NLRB and for VW to remain silent.

"These intervening employees should be heard," he said. "In any situation, you want to make sure both sides are heard."

Right to Work Foundation spokesman Patrick Semmens said he's not surprised by the UAW's position but he's "very disappointed Volkswagen won't stand up for their workers being involved in the process ... the very workers whose rights are at stake."

"The question is whether they'll be forced into a union bargaining monopoly or not," Semmens said.

In the Right to Work filing, five Volkswagen workers asked to intervene in the UAW's appeal, saying the union and VW colluded to unionize the Chattanooga plant.

Southern Momentum, in its filing representing two VW workers, said the results of the election should stand.

The UAW alleged in its appeal that interference by politicians and outside groups hurt the union's case in the vote, and it cited a "coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign" by politicians and special interest groups to deprive VW workers of their right to join a union.

The filing noted U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's statement during the election that should workers reject the UAW, he had assurances VW would bring a second vehicle assembly line to Chattanooga.

The UAW charges also claim intimidation from Republican state legislators who linked future economic development incentives for an expansion at the VW plant to rejection of the union.

Corker said the workers "clearly spoke" during the vote, and that overturning it based on his and others' comments would be unprecedented.

Semmens said there's no timetable by which the NLRB must proceed to either rule on the intervention efforts or the case.

"It's a matter of how long they take to investigate," he said, adding that the NLRB could hold a public hearing.

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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