UAW: New local shows it's 'not giving up' on VW workers

photo Union tile
photo UAW officials hold a news conference to announce the formation of a local union at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant.

The United Auto Workers today unveiled a new local in Chattanooga as the union aims toward eventually organizing the Volkswagen plant.

"Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members," said Dennis Williams, president of the UAW, at a news conference. "At that time, we said we would not give up on these committed and hard-working employees. We're keeping our promise."

Williams said UAW Local No. 42 will be located at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers office off Bonny Oaks Drive, where the UAW has operated for several years.

He said members will not pay union dues. Dues can't be collected until 30 days after there's a collective bargaining agreement with a company, according to the UAW.

Gary Casteel, the UAW's secretary-treasurer, said Local 42 will be "run by, and for, the employees at Volkswagen."

"We've had ongoing discussions with Volkswagen and have arrived at a consensus with the company," said Casteel. "Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen's Chattanooga workforce, we're confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members' union that represents those employees who join the local."

Casteel, who was backed by about 25 VW plant workers, said the UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company's expansion and growth in Chattanooga.

UAW officials renewed requests for the State of Tennessee to extend the economic incentives necessary for Volkswagen to add a new product line at the Chattanooga plant, and said the union will continue advocating for increased investment. "State officials have assured the public and the Volkswagen workforce that the decision on incentives for Chattanooga is not related to whether workers exercise their right to join a union," said Ray Curry, the newly elected director of UAW Region 8, in a statement. "We are gratified by those assurances, and the state was right to give them."

VW said in a statement that there is no "formal' agreement between the company and the union.

"Just like anywhere else in the world, the establishment of a local organization is a matter for the trade union concerned. There is no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter," the VW statement said.

According to the UAW, Volkswagen's business model is premised on employee representation, and Local 42 will represent any interested employees who join the local as members. No employees will be required to join, the union said.

See more in Friday's Times Free Press.