VW to seek federal court appeal of UAW election in Chattanooga

United Auto Workers decries 'stall tactic' by automaker

The Chattanooga Volkswagen assembly plant, located in the Enterprise South industrial park, is photographed on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The United Auto Workers said Monday that Volkswagen's plan to fight a federal ruling and not recognize last December's union election at the Chattanooga plant is "a stall tactic that won't work."

"By choosing to fight the [National Labor Relations Board], Volkswagen is in clear violation of federal law," UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said in a statement. "We are asking the NLRB to order the company to immediately abide by federal law and come to the bargaining table with its employees."

photo Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers, speaks during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Spring Hill, Tenn. The United Auto Workers and German trade union IG Metall will open a joint office to promote unionization among manufacturers and suppliers in the South. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

VW said Monday that it respects the right of employees to decide the question of union representation, but it will appeal to federal court the NLRB's decision earlier this month upholding a vote in which a small group of skilled trades workers aligned with the UAW.

VW had wanted skilled trades and production employees at the plant to vote in last December's election.

"We are disappointed that the NLRB declined to fully evaluate this important question. Therefore, Volkswagen will take the necessary steps to have this issue reviewed by a federal court of appeal," said plant spokesman Scott Wilson.

The UAW won the December election on a 108-44 vote, ending a decades-long losing streak in union elections among foreign automakers in the South. The UAW lost an election among all blue-collar VW Chattanooga plant workers two years ago when employees voted 712-626 against UAW representation.

On Monday, the union asked the NLRB to order the German automaker to begin bargaining with the skilled workers who voted to join the UAW.

"We reject the company's claim that recognizing and bargaining with the skilled-trades employees would somehow splinter the workforce in Chattanooga," Casteel said. "Recognizing clearly identifiable employee units is common in the U.S. Furthermore, Volkswagen plants all over the world - including in countries such as Italy, Russia and Spain - recognize multiple unions that represent portions of a workforce."

The federal labor board on April 13 declined to take up VW's challenge of allowing the union election among a group of about 160 workers specializing in the repair and maintenance of machinery and robots.

Dan Gilmore, a Chattanooga labor law attorney, said that if VW receives standing in a federal appeals court, the case could go on "for a long, long time."

According to the NLRB, typically a refusal to bargain charge brought before the federal agency is the avenue employers will use to move these types of decisions into federal court.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.