UAW supporter sees victory in vote

photo Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga. Workers at Volkswagen's only U.S. factory will decide in February 2014 whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.

Richard Isbell is a car guy who's living his dream working at Volkswagen's auto assembly plant.

"I've always liked to work on cars since I was a kid," the United Auto Workers supporter said in an interview last week. "This was a good way to get training and do what I enjoy doing."

Isbell, 33, has lived in Chattanooga his whole life except for two years when he studied at Penn State University. But he moved back to the city, working at Cargill, Invista and at Silverdale Correctional Facility before joining VW more than three years ago.

He started in door assembly on the line, he said, but now works doing small repairs to cars that come off the line needing to be adjusted.

The married father of two said he sees joining the UAW as the best opportunity for the plant's employees. With the setting up of a works council, which VW has pledged to do if workers approve the UAW, the Chattanooga site will join nearly every other plant the carmaker operates around the globe.

For him, Isbell said, aligning with the UAW isn't about the money. It's more about the "co-determination" philosophy the UAW and VW have talked about in terms of labor-management relations, he said.

"People are excited about the opportunity," he said. "This is my career."

Isbell said there's a lot of buzz inside the plant about the election.

"We want to bring more business here. This is a great way to do it. I can't wait to get going," he said.

Contact staff writer Mike Pare at mpare@timesfree or 423-757-6318.

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