Volkswagen files lawsuit to block UAW vote

FILE - In this July 12, 2013, file photo, employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., work on the assembly of a Passat sedans. The United Auto Workers said on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, that Volkswagen reneged on an earlier agreement to recognize the union in exchange for the UAW dropping a legal challenge to the outcome of a union vote at the plant in 2014. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, File)

Volkswagen of America is going to court to block an order that it negotiate a contract with the United Auto Workers for maintenance employees at its Chattanooga plant who voted to unionize last year.

VW filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., Thursday to block a regulatory ruling against the company about whether it must recognize a group of hourly employees within the Chattanooga assembly plant with their own union. The German automaker said it is not opposed to labor unions, but it doesn't want to negotiate separately with different types of hourly workers in the same plant.

The legal challenge seeks to overturn the 2-1 vote by the National Labor Relations Board ordering VW to negotiate with the UAW for a contract with the skilled production workers. Volkswagen's biggest union in Germany, IG Metall, has also urged VW to recognize the UAW election.

The maintenance workers voted last December by a margin of 108 to 44 to be represented by UAW Local 42. The vote among just the maintenance, or skilled trades, workers in the plant reversed a 2014 election among all production workers at VW who voted 712-626 against joining the UAW.

VW spokesman Scott Wilson said the company was "disappointed that the NLRB declined to evaluate" Volkswagen's objections to having hourly workers in a plant separated and not vote on representation as an entire group.

"As always, Volkswagen respects the right of all of our employees to decide the question of union representation." Wilson said in a statement Thursday. "This is why we disagree with the decision to separate Volkswagen maintenance and production workers and will continue our effort to allow everyone to vote as one group on the matter of union representation."

But UAW officials insist that the NLRB and courts, especially under the Obama administration, have upheld the right of a select group of workers within a plant to organize their own union without involving all of the plant's hourly workers.

But a change in the White House next year could alter how the presidential-appointed NLRB members interpret the rules for employee groups within a business in the future.

"We're disappointed that Volkswagen is continuing to thumb its nose at the federal government," said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the International Union's Transnational Department who has worked for nearly four years to unionize the VW plant in Chattanooga. "The federal courts have consistently upheld the NLRB labor standard that enabled the skilled trades vote in Chattanooga."

Casteel said VW's "ill-advised appeal is nothing more than a stall tactic to try to delay the inevitable."

Contact Dave Flessner at or 423-757-6340.