Clock ticking for UAW to file objection in VW Chattanooga vote

photo UAW President Bob King speaks with the media inside the Chattanooga Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Center after the vote was announced in this file photo.

The United Auto Workers has until week's end to file an objection to the election in which Chattanooga Volkswagen plant employees turned down the union's organizing effort, a former National Labor Relations Board member says.

Unless the NLRB overturns last week's result, the UAW may not seek an election for union recognition for another year under the agreement the neutrality agreement UAW signed with VW ahead of the last week's election.

The only proviso, the agreement said, is if another union makes an effort to organize the plant's employees.

UAW President Bob King said the union is exploring whether to challenge the vote or pursue other ways to organize the plant.

King has hit the criticisms of his union by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. R-Tenn, and Gov Bill Haslam, R-Tenn., and suggestions that the state would limit incentives if the workers voted to unionize.

"The NLRB tries to create a situation where workers really make a choice without threats and without intimidation," King said.

John Raudabaugh, a law professor at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla., who served on the board from 1990 to 1993, said the UAW has through the close of Friday night to file an objection with the NLRB.

"If the union doesn't file an objection to have another election, it has to remain silent for a year" in terms to trying to organize the Chattanooga plant, he said.

Nashville attorney Gerard Stranch said that typically, an objection to the NLRB will go to a hearing agent and administrative law judge who will make a finding.

"It should move quickly," he said.

But the Tennessee Democratic Party attorney said there are appeal rights to the NLRB board and the election can't be certified until those have run their course.

Raudabaugh, who does work for the anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, said if the board holds a hearing on an objection to the election, it could take months to resolve, he said.

"Should the board say 'Yes,' [and overturns the election result], they get another election," he said.

If the NLRB turns back an objection, the neutrality agreement between the union and VW said the UAW shall not make another recognition request for a year from the election date nor resume organizing at the plant.

But the only stipulation is if another union starts "a serious, concerted and legitimate effort" to organize workers, the agreement said. Then, it said, the UAW, upon notice by VW, is released from its obligation.

Some workers have indicated they're interested in starting up what one termed "a micro-union" or some kind of organized unit at the plant that could consist of just the factory's employees.

Gunnar Kilian, general secretary of the VW Group works council, said his entity still wants to pursue such a labor board in Chattanooga. He said plans are to come to the U.S. within a couple of weeks to talk to labor lawyers about how that could be accomplished.

"Works councils are a fundamental part of the business model that helped Volkswagen to grow and succeed around the world. We believe an American works council in Chattanooga will contribute to the creation of more jobs, more economic growth for the region, and more success for Volkswagen in the U.S. market," he said in a statement.

In a works council, blue- and white-collar employees discuss day-to-day operations such as training, safety and hours. VW has said a union is needed in order to set up a works council under U.S. law.

King said there are a number of different legal options the UAW is talking about internally.

"We're obviously communicating with our great allies in the Volkswagen Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall in Germany," he said.

King said the UAW is weighing different options.

"Workers don't want to take this lying down. It's a huge disappointment for pro-union, pro-UAW workers. They are not giving up the fight," he said.

Last Friday, in the NLRB-supervised election, workers vote no on UAW recognition at the plant by a margin of 712 to 626, or 53 percent to 47 percent.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.