Top VW labor leader visits Chattanooga plant

Top VW labor leader visits Chattanooga plant

November 14th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Local - Breaking News

POLL: Should Volkswagen Chattanooga have a works council?

Bernd Osterloh

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

A top German labor leader who has expressed support for a works council labor board at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant met today with some employees and managers at the factory.

Bernd Osterloh, who heads VW's global works council, gathered both with top managers and select workers, said employees.

Osterloh this afternoon is slated to meet with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in Nashville. He also may meet with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Osterloh, who sits on VW's powerful supervisory board, had scheduled a visit in October, but plane trouble in Germany had postponed the meeting. He was accompanied on his visit by a couple of other supervisory board members.

Volkswagen employee Dave Gleeson said he thinks Osterloh's visit is a positive.

"That's not just because I'm a union supporter," he said.

Ed Hunter, another VW employee, said it's about communication.

"That's the whole thing behind this is co-determination," he said.

Osterloh had told German media this summer that he wanted to talk to some Tennessee Republicans about their opposition to United Auto Workers representation at the plant.

He said then that he was willing to engage in "confidential talks" with Republican U.S. politicians who are worried about a works council set up at VW's Chattanooga plant.

"I am happy to sit down with the Republican politicians around the table to hear where their concerns lie," he said then.

Osterloh added that whether VW's Chattanooga workers pick the UAW to represent them at the plant is their decision.

Union representation is needed to set up a works council in the U.S., according to VW.

Haslam and Corker both have questioned the need for the UAW at the Chattanooga factory.

Haslam has said the possibility of the plant becoming unionized is coming up as a topic of concern among other industries the state is trying to recruit to Tennessee.

Corker has added that "the leadership at the [Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce] believes that if the UAW established a stronghold in our area, it would be a negative."

See more in Friday's Times Free Press.