VW labor exec won't promote UAW in city

VW labor exec won't promote UAW in city

August 19th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A key German labor leader says he won't promote United Auto Workers' efforts to organize Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant.

Bernd Osterloh, who represents labor on the German carmaker's supervisory board, said he is keen on union representation for employees at the plant, but he would not actively promote UAW efforts to broaden its membership at VW, Reuters reported Thursday.

An auto analyst said Osterloh's remarks "aren't terribly surprising."

"He's trying to protect his own jobs," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com.

Krebs said German labor leaders are nervous about plant production in that country. At the same time, the United States has become much more competitive in manufacturing autos.

"Each one wants to protect their own," she said.

The UAW has tried unsuccessfully to unionize the so-called transplants -- factories built in the South by foreign-owned automakers. But union leaders indicated this year they want to step up organizing efforts, including the VW plant in Chattanooga.

UAW southern region director Gary Casteel told The Associated Press in July that VW has had an organized workforce globally and that makes executives and employees at the Chattanooga plant "more willing to talk to unions about representation."

No official organizing effort had started, he said.

Casteel could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communication for VW's Chattanooga operations, said Thursday that one of its core values is the basic right of employees to have a voice in the company.

"If our team members feel the need for it, they will decide for themselves about whether to be represented by a union or not," he said.

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