United Auto Workers renew call for Volkswagen Chattanooga plant union vote

Anti-UAW group says union is 'misleading workers'

The Volkswagen logo is seen on an Atlas at Village Volkswagen on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd purchased the first Chattanooga-made Atlas.

VW's manipulation of the NLRB process to halt a vote of its workers is a travesty.

The United Auto Workers said Monday it believes the National Labor Relations Board's Atlanta office will take action that could permit a union vote at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga to take place.

But the timing of a new election remains uncertain.

"After reading the NLRB order, we are confident that the NLRB Region 10 will take action ... to allow the withdrawal of the maintenance petition and revoke, at the Chattanooga workers request, the certification of the maintenance petition," said Brian Rothenberg of UAW International.

He said that after completion of those steps to dissolve the result of a 2015 unionization bid by maintenance workers at VW, the UAW expects the board to proceed with a new election for all of the production workers at the VW plant.

However, an anti-UAW group called Southern Momentum took the union to task, saying that federal labor law clearly states that a new vote cannot be held at a plant with an unresolved election pending before the NLRB.

The UAW had criticized VW's stance on the new election, terming it "the definition of duplicity."

"The UAW either knew this fact before filing a petition for a new election and is intentionally misleading workers or is wholly incompetent," said Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga lawyer for Evans Harrison Hackett who represented Southern Momentum in the lead-up to a 2014 union vote at the Chattanooga plant.

Nicely said the UAW is "again showing its true self in a sad attempt to collect dues to be sent to Detroit. The choice is clear: the UAW was wrong for Volkswagen in 2014 and it is wrong for our workers today."

On Friday, the NLRB put on hold a case involving a potential new union election at the plant. The board granted VW's request for a stay, though it was unknown how long the case would be put on hold.

The choice is clear: the UAW was wrong for Volkswagen in 2014 and it is wrong for our workers today.

VW said after the NLRB decision that it has consistently stated that the Chattanooga workforce is one integrated team and that cohesion is critical to its success.

"We respect our colleagues' right to decide on representation. Any election for the Chattanooga plant should include both production and maintenance employees. This is why we appealed the UAW's petition for an election for only the maintenance employees in December 2015," he company said. "Before we proceed, we asked the National Labor Relations Board to ensure that the pending NLRB decision is properly resolved first."

Meanwhile, the UAW renewed its call for a union vote at the plant.

"Let Chattanooga workers vote," said Rothenberg. "After insisting for the last four years that they would only agree to a vote of all production and maintenance workers, Volkswagen has now blocked just such a vote. VW's manipulation of the NLRB process to halt a vote of its workers is a travesty."

He said that free, democratic elections are a cornerstone of American life, whether it's the PTA or president of the United States.

Last month, some workers at the VW plant petitioned the UAW for another union election, which would be the third at the factory since 2014.

The UAW lost the first vote by a margin of 712 to 626. In 2015, a smaller group of maintenance workers won a union vote at the plant by 108-44.

Last month after waiting more than three years for the courts and NLRB to decide on the validity of the union for the maintenance workers, the UAW disclaimed the 2015 election and sought NLRB action to revoke the unit so a new election of all maintenance and production workers could take place.

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