Chattanooga Volkswagen workers file more NLRB charges

Chattanooga Volkswagen workers file more NLRB charges

October 17th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Chanee Baker installs a tunnel shield to the chassis of a Volkswagen Passat on the production line.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Four workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant on Wednesday filed a National Labor Relations Board charge alleging statements by German VW officials are illegally coercing employees into United Auto Workers representation.

The charge comes after senior VW management in Germany stated, according to recent reports, that for any expanded production to be considered in Chattanooga, the plant must adopt a works council, said the National Right to Work Foundation.

In the charge, the workers said VW's alleged threat "interfere[s] with Chattanooga facility employees' rights to choose whether or not to engage in self-organization to form, join, or assist labor organizations."

Mark Mix, president of the foundation that has attorneys working with the workers, said in a statement that with reports that VW is considering Chattanooga to build its new sport utility vehicle, "this is no idle threat."

"If VW management was discouraging workers from joining the UAW with threats, there's little question that an NLRB prosecution would have already begun at the UAW's behest," Mix said.

A VW plant spokesman said Wednesday the company had no comment on the NLRB filing.

According to Reuters, a top German labor leader with VW last week appeared to link the assembly of a new model in Chattanooga and a works council labor board.

"We know how important that [second] vehicle is for Chattanooga," said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's global works council, in Germany.

In June, another top global official for VW's works council appeared to say the group would

block the automaker's expansion in Chattanooga unless a similar labor panel is put into place at the factory. A German newspaper reported that VW Group deputy council chief Stephan Wolf said, "We will only agree to an extension of the site or any other model contract when it is clear how to proceed with the employees' representatives in the United States."

Eight VW workers had earlier filed NLRB charges against the UAW, alleging coercion and intimidation related to authorization cards the union is asking employees for the automaker to sign.

The UAW has denied those charges.

Gary Casteel, a regional director for the UAW based in Lebanon, Tenn., said the cards signed by the workers clearly state the workers are supporting the UAW's effort to represent them.

Casteel has said a majority of the workers at the plant have signed cards which authorize the union to represent them.

"It's as binding and legal as any vote," he said.

VW and the UAW are talking about the set up of a works council in Chattanooga. The UAW has said that VW accepting the cards would be the least divisive way to handle the situation rather than hold a secret-ballot vote.

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