UAW drops appeal; NLRB to certify Chattanooga VW plant results

photo Officials mull around the Hamilton County Courthouse before what was supposed to be an NLRB hearing over the possibility of a UAW revote.
photo Bob King

The United Auto Workers today withdrew its objections filed with the National Labor Relations Board regarding February's vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, effectively ending the union's appeal.

An NLRB administrative law judge said in Chattanooga that the federal agency is issuing an order to officially certify the results of the election in which VW workers rejected the UAW organizing effort by a 712 to 626 margin.

UAW President Bob King said the decision was made in the best interests of Volkswagen employees, the automaker, and economic development in Chattanooga.

King said in a news release about an hour before a hearing was slated to begin on the appeal that the NLRB has a "historically dysfunctional and complex process" that potentially could drag on for months or even years. Additionally, the UAW cited refusals by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker "to participate in a transparent legal discovery process, which undermines public trust and confidence."

"The unprecedented political interference by Gov. Haslam, Sen. Corker and others was a distraction for Volkswagen employees and a detour from achieving Tennessee's economic priorities," King said. "The UAW is ready to put February's tainted election in the rearview mirror and instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga."

VW said it welcomes the UAW's decision to withdraw its appeal.

"It provides an important gesture for a constructive dialogue in Chattanooga. It is now time for all concerned to shape the future of the Chattanooga location. Important tasks lie ahead of us: to build excellent cars for the American market in Chattanooga, to create good, secure jobs in Tennessee, and to set up a new, innovative form of co-determination in the USA," the company said.

However, Maury Nicely of the local anti-UAW group Southern Momentum said he believed the UAW realized that its appeal for a revote of the election wouldn't be approved by the NLRB.

"I think they realized that there was no meat on the bone," he said. "They're conceding that point."

Nicely also said the UAW's withdrawl is "a vindication of public officials."

He said that what remains to be seen is if the UAW and VW are embarking on "another course of action" as it relates to organizing the plant.

Glenn Taubman, an attorney for the National Right to Work Foundation, which represented some anti-UAW workers, said he was gratified to see the choice of the plant employees prevail.

The Foundation said it would be a year before the UAW or any entity could seek another NLRB election at the Chattanooga plant.

UAW Regional Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union's Southern region, said that the UAW's focus is advocating for Volkswagen to create more jobs in Tennessee by adding a new sport utility vehicle line at the Chattanooga plant.

"The UAW wants to help create quality jobs and build world-class products for American consumers," Casteel said. "With this in mind, we urge Gov. Haslam to immediately extend the incentives that previously were offered to Volkswagen for this new SUV line, and do so unconditionally."

King said the UAW has accomplished a major goal with its election objections. "The UAW's objections informed the public about the unprecedented interference by anti-labor politicians and third parties who want to prevent workers from exercising their democratic right to choose union representation," he said.

King also said that outdated federal laws governing the NLRB never contemplated "the level of extreme intimidation and interference that occurred in Chattanooga." Even if the NLRB ordered a new election - the board's only available remedy under current law - nothing would stop politicians and anti-union organizations from again interfering.

Looking ahead, the UAW believes the congressional inquiry into the Haslam administration's "incentives threat to Volkswagen" provides the best opportunity for additional scrutiny. The UAW will ask Congress to examine the use of federal funds in the state's incentives threat, in order to protect Tennessee jobs and workers in the future.

"Frankly, Congress is a more effective venue for publicly examining the now well-documented threat," King said. "We commend Congressmen George Miller and John Tierney for their leadership on this matter, and look forward to seeing the results of their inquiry."

See more in Tuesday's Times Free Press.