The United Auto Workers is denying allegations that it misled and coerced eight Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga to forfeit their rights in the union's card-signing campaign.
The UAW said the charges, filed on Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board, are a "frivolous and baseless" attempt to delay negotiations between the union and VW, according to Reuters.
Gary Casteel, regional director in the Southeast for the UAW, 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.
The charges were filed by attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which said UAW organizers told VW workers that a signature on the card was a call for a secret-ballot election.
The filing by the foundation asks the NLRB to order the UAW to cease and desist from demanding recognition based upon tainted cards.
The union is engaging in talks with top VW management about creation of a works council labor board at the Chattanooga plant. The UAW wants VW to OK union representation based on the cards rather than a secret-ballot vote.
Meanwhile, the NLRB said Thursday it has begun the process leading to an investigation of the six charges filed this week, said board spokesman Gregory King.
"These aren't complaints," he said. "These are charges that may result in us bringing a complaint."
King said the NLRB's agents will gather evidence, including affidavits, and the findings will be evaluated by the regional director. If a complaint is issued, a hearing will be held before an administrative law judge unless there's a settlement.
Mark Mix, the foundation's president, said he expects the NLRB process to take place quickly.
"We'll represent the employees and be present with them," he said.
Mix said that while the UAW has claimed that VW simply recognizing the cards is less "divisive," that doesn't give workers a chance to say no to the unionizing effort.
The workers who brought the charges also said there were other "improprieties" in the card-check process, including using cards that were signed too long ago to be legally valid.
A VW official has said it may take months to work out an agreement over a works council and talks with the UAW likely could extend to 2014.
In a letter to plant employees this month, VW officials noted there's "very lively discussion" regarding labor representation for factory employees.
"In respect to this please allow us, the plant management, to give one important note: Every single team member takes his or her own decision and this will be respected by us," it said.
UAW President Bob King and several other top-level union officials met with high-ranking VW representatives within the past month in Germany to advance earlier talks about a works council at the Chattanooga plant.
Such a panel would give hourly and salaried employees a venue to discuss plant-related issues such as work hours and training. VW said in the letter that a works council "can only be realized together with a trade union."
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