Labor board eyes possible dates for new Volkswagen Chattanooga union election

A Volkswagen employee works beneath the body of a vehicle as it moves down the assembly line at the Volkswagen Plant Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Volkswagen and the United Auto Workers will have to wait a little longer to see if and when a new union election might take place at the automaker's Chattanooga plant.

A National Labor Relations Board administrative hearing officer said that the two sides will have a week to submit more information after a two-hour hearing in Chattanooga on Wednesday.


Volkswagen and UAW lawyers have until April 24 to submit legal briefs to the National Labor Relations Board’s Atlanta office.

But the hearing officer did entertain several possible dates in May on which a new union election could take place if the NLRB rules in the UAW's favor.

Steve Cochran, president of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga, said the hourly workers "just want a vote." He termed VW's actions "a stall tactic."

However, Arthur Carter, a lawyer for Volkswagen, said there's already a certified union in place at the Chattanooga plant. He said a new election can't take place until a challenge over the existing unit makes its way through the NLRB.

Carter said VW doesn't object to an employee vote on union representation.

"What's at issue are certain procedural requirements," he said. "All we're trying to do is proceed in a way consistent with board law."

While the lawyers in the case were given seven days to submit legal briefs, the UAW's attorney asked for just three business days.

"The employer has had time to brief this issue," said Michael Schoenfeld at the hearing that took place at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building.

Brian Rothenberg of the UAW International said the process is frustrating for VW's Chattanooga workforce and that the company is "trying to play games."

Volkswagen has said it wants questions regarding the prior union vote involving just maintenance workers at its Chattanooga plant to be resolved first before another election is called at the factory.

The company said that while it respects workers' rights to decide union representation, it has always believed an election should include production and maintenance employees and it will "take steps to ensure that the prior maintenance-only petition is properly resolved first."

Last week, some VW Chattanooga workers filed a petition for a new election at the plant to align production and maintenance employees with the UAW. It would be the third union vote at the plant since 2014.

In February 2014, the union lost an election involving production and skilled maintenance workers by a margin of 712 to 626.

But in the 2015 vote of just maintenance workers, who keep up and repair the robots and other equipment in the plant, the union prevailed by 108 to 44.

VW has refused to bargain with the smaller unit, saying it wanted a vote of all the production and maintenance workers, and the case has been tied up in court and before the NLRB.

On Monday, the unionized unit of maintenance workers asked the NLRB to disclaim the second vote to clear the way for the new election, which was sought for April 29-30.

But VW objected, saying there are issues still pending before the NLRB on which the panel hasn't ruled related to the smaller unit.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.