UAW appeals to keep 'outside groups' out of decision on new union vote at VW plant

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

The United Auto Workers will appeal a decision to allow business groups backing local Volkswagen workers to intervene in the union's bid for a new election at the VW plant in Chattanooga.

In a statement released today, the UAW said it will ask the full National Labor Relations Board to review the decision by the Atlanta regional director to grant standing to the National Right to Work Foundation and Southern Momentum to present arguments in the debate over the UAW election appeal.

"It is an outrage that the Atlanta Region of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), deviating from the board's own practice, is allowing groups with shadowy funding that are masquerading as legitimate worker representatives to participate in the process to determine whether the UAW election at Volkswagen was tainted by state and federal politicians' threats of retaliation against workers if they exercised their right to choose UAW representation," the union said in a statement today. "Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant. It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce, will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing. They have mocked the NLRB process and have denigrated workers who are demanding that the federal government enforce their right to have an election free from outside interference."

Volkswagen hourly employees in Chattanooga voted last month 712 to 626 against representation by the UAW. But the union has asked the NLRB to order a new election because the UAW claims the vote was tainted by comments from state legislators and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., suggesting that the state would grant more incentives to VW if the workers rejected the union and that VW would be more likely to expand with more suppliers if the UAW was rejected.

VW said the union vote was unrelated to its decision about expanding its Chattanooga plant, but Gov. Bill Haslam said recruiting suppliers to Tennessee would be harder if VW is represented by the UAW.

Southern Momentum raised more than $100,000 primarily from area businesses and individuals to mount a campaign against the UAW, Chattanooga attorney Maury Nicely said. The National Right to Work Legal Foundation, which often represents individuals who object to labor unions and don't want to be represented by unions, also was active in urging voters not to support the UAW.

The UAW claiims that Southern Momentum worked in concert with an anti-union group formed by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.

"With this secret business funding, this "grassroots" organization also hired one of the nation's largest anti-union firms, Projections, to create propaganda for their anti-union campaign," the UAW said. "Its money speaks louder than its words, but it does not speak for Volkswagen Chattanooga workers."

Norquist's group, known as the Center for Worker Freedom, also bought billboards and other advertisements in Chattanooga urging workers not to vote for the UAW because the conservative group said the union supports liberal politicians who want to boost the size of the federal government.

Nicely said Southern Momentum asked to make arguments to the NLRB to ensure that the agency heard from workers opposed to the union who contend that the Feb. 12-14 election results should stand.

Volkswagen sided with the UAW in urging the NLRB not to grant standing for other groups to make arguments before the labor board.