Seven workers at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant are filing federal charges against the United Auto Workers, saying the union misled and coerced them and other employees to forfeit their rights in its card-signing campaign to gain their support, a group said today.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said its attorneys are to file the charges today with the National Labor Relations Board's regional office in Atlanta.
Earlier this month, the UAW said a majority of the plant's workers had signed cards authorizing the union to represent them. It also said it was asking VW to recognize the union because of the cards rather than hold a secret-ballot election at the plant.
According to the foundation, VW workers were told by UAW organizers that a signature on the card was to call for a secret-ballot election. The workers also charged other "improprieties" in the card-check process, including using cards that were signed too long ago to be legally valid.
In addition, the foundation said, workers who wanted to lawfully revoke their signatures were told by union officials that they had to physically appear at a union office if they wanted their cards returned to them.
Mark Mix, the foundation's president, said that despite making it easy to sign union cards at the workplace, the UAW is now demanding workers to go to a union office to exercise their right to reclaim their cards.
"This case underscores how card check unionization schemes make it 'easy to check in, but impossible to check out,"' he said in a statement.
The filing asks the NLRB to order the UAW to cease and desist from demanding recognition based upon tainted cards.
The UAW could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
However, Gary Casteel, a UAW regional director, has said that VW approving the cards and recognizing the union is "the least divisive way to do it. ... It's as binding and as legal as any vote. If we were in any other country, they'd recognize the cards."
Casteel said the UAW continues to solicit signatures from workers, adding that "card signing has blossomed as of late."
"We've got a majority," he said. "The company is not disputing that. We want to keep things positive."
In an earlier statement, the UAW said that it's committed to engaging with VW in "open, fair and respectful dialogue to create can environment where Tennessee workers can participate in VW's global works council system."
A works council, which could represent blue- and white-collar employees of a plant over issues such as hours or working conditions, is envisioned by the UAW in Chattanooga. VW's Chattanooga plant could become the first auto factory in the U.S. to have such a German-style works council arrangement. VW officials say the Chattanooga plant is the only major facility of the automaker's not to have a works council.
Casteel has said there is "no way under U.S. labor law" to set up such a labor board that could deal with substantive matters or have authority such as a union with the power to negotiate.
Last week, VW said that it could take months to hammer out an agreement with the UAW about setting up the works council at the plant and that talks could extend into 2014.
The NLRB says it receives about 20,000 to 30,000 charges a year from employees, unions and employers covering a wide range to unfair labor practices. Each charge is investigated by the board. The findings are evaluated by the NLRB regional director and in certain cases reviewed by NLRB attorneys in Washington, D.C.
Typically, a decision is made about the merits of a charge within seven to 12 weeks, though some cases may take longer, according to the NLRB.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.