ACE says VW unfairly enacting Chattanooga labor policy

photo Factory workers stand near the assembly line in the assembly center at the Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant.

A rival labor group to the United Auto Workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant is complaining that the automaker is unfairly implementing its new labor policy to favor the union.

A lawyer for the group, the American Council of Employees, said it's possible that VW's Chattanooga operation has violated the National Labor Relations Act by showing preference for one labor organization over another.

However, the president of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga, said both groups have gotten the same opportunity under VW's policy.

"We learned the same requirements at same time," said Mike Cantrell, the local's president and a VW employee. "I had to find out what was required. We went by the guidelines. We submitted the information in the proper order it was to be submitted."

The UAW has submitted a list of names for VW to check out and officials are hopeful the company will get back to it soon.

But in a letter sent to Christian Koch, who oversees VW in Chattanooga, ACE contends that employee names and signatures recently submitted by the UAW as authorized members of the union are invalid, having been signed months before the implementation of the new policy.

"Authorization cards which predate the policy could not have been obtained by the UAW as support for engagement under the terms of that policy," said ACE Interim President Sean Moss. The VW employee said that only cards which were signed after the implementation of the policy should be allowed.

The policy permits labor groups to interact with the company. The level of interaction is based on the number of members the groups sign up.

Moss' letter said that a large portion of the signatures submitted by UAW for verification are also nullified by materials subsequently signed by employees expressly revoking any prior authorization of UAW representation and/or authorizing ACE as the sole representative.

He said ACE officials hope for an impartial and independent accounting of the actual level of support for the UAW at VW Chattanooga.

"More than anything else, we want a fair and level playing field. However, if outdated or revoked authorization cards are allowed to count, the natural conclusion would be that members of VW management and the UAW have been colluding to undermine the voice of the majority of VW-Chattanooga employees," Moss said.

The letter said that the independent accounting firm tasked with verifying authorization cards has not been provided access to materials that contradict the signatures provided by the UAW.

Maury Nicely, a local lawyer representing ACE, says Volkswagen has exhibited an apparent bias in favor of the UAW since the implementation of the new policy.

"Hopefully invalid signatures won't be accepted for verification, but this would be just another example in a series of biased actions benefiting the UAW," he said.

See more in Tuesday's Times Free Press.