American Council of Employees calls out UAW in Volkswagen labor case

American Council of Employees calls out UAW in Volkswagen labor case

April 6th, 2016 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

The United Auto Workers and the American Council of Employees are vying to set up a works council for employees at the facility.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

The United Auto Workers is asking the National Labor Relations Board to "promptly deny" a request by Volkswagen to review the validity of the December election which saw a small group of employees agree to be organized by the union.

"UAW Local 42 was certified as the bargaining representative of the maintenance employees at the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant more than three months ago," the UAW said in a new filing. "Yet the board has delayed ruling on the employer's meritless request for review."

Michael Schoenfeld, a UAW attorney, said the delay has been "deeply harmful, and the union asks that it promptly end."

However, an anti-UAW labor group at the plant said the union is lobbying the NLRB to limit deliberations and render a ruling in an unusually short time frame.

David Reed, American Council of Employees' president, said that "we all knew that the local impact of the Volkswagen diesel [emissions] issue would be made worse by the UAW's ill-timed election and dispute with the company, but it's really upsetting to see them so blatantly attempt to exploit this crisis as part of their strategy to gain leverage."

Reed said that VW's Chattanooga workers "deserve more than to be treated like bargaining chips in the UAW's national organizing strategy."

Mike Cantrell, president of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga, said the NLRB supervised a fair election at the plant and then promptly certified the results.

"Now, we're simply asking the board to uphold its own decisions and do so in a timely manner. We remain hopeful that Volkswagen will comply with federal law and move forward soon in collective bargaining with UAW Local 42 on behalf of the skilled trades employees," he said. "The members of UAW Local 42 have rolled up our sleeves and we're ready to be part of the Volkswagen comeback story."

Reed said ACE, in the meantime, has presented management with a list of "common sense solutions" that would make employees' jobs easier and the facility more efficient, such as reforming a haphazard overtime policy.

"We then asked them to bring the suggestions to the wider employee roundtables and, seeing the overwhelming support, after a few months they finally adopted our policy proposal. We think this is a pretty big step forward," he said.

Reed said ACE will next push for changes to the the paid-time off policy and job promotion process. He said ACE isn't surprised to see Cantrell attempt to take credit for the change to the overtime policy in the UAW's most recent newsletter.

Cantrell said Local 42 remains the only group whose membership has been verified at the highest level under VW's community organization engagement policy.

"We're engaged in regular conversations with the plant management about matters of concern to employees, including overtime pay, shift scheduling and other issues. But while the COE arrangement has some merit, it does not provide for the same kind of meaningful employee representation that exists at every other Volkswagen plant in the world," he said.

The UAW lost an election in February 2014 among all blue-collar workers at the plant. Last December, the union won the organizing election among a small group of maintenance employees. VW later appealed the NLRB, saying the unit was too small. VW said it wanted all the plant's blue-collar workers to vote in the election.

The UAW then charged that VW has refused to bargain with the UAW group at the plant.

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


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