United Auto Workers asks for removal of hold on Volkswagen Chattanooga union vote

Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith / Vehicles reach the end of the assembly line before they are driven the next area of the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga.

The United Auto Workers on Thursday asked the National Labor Relations Board to lift the hold that has been placed on its petition for a new union vote at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant.

The move comes after the NLRB's Atlanta regional office accepted the withdrawal of charges bought earlier by Volkswagen maintenance workers over the company's refusal to bargain with that unit, according to the UAW.

"We believe the time for VW to play games and deny votes is at an end and that the right of Chattanooga workers to vote should be expedited. Voting is the American way," said Brian Rothenberg of UAW International. "We believe as we always have, that the NLRB should set an election date for all Chattanooga VW maintenance and production workers."

The new filing asked the NLRB to lift a stay of proceedings that it entered last week in the case. The NLRB, in a short decision, granted Volkswagen's request for the stay.

The UAW said Thursday that all the purported bars for an election of maintenance and production workers at VW sought by petitioner have been eliminated.

"Accordingly, the stay should be lifted so that NLRB Region 10 may resume processing the petition and determine if an election is to be directed," said the filing by UAW attorney Michael B. Schoenfeld.

Volkswagen said in a statement last week 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," the statement said. "Before we proceed, we asked the National Labor Relations Board to ensure that the pending NLRB decision is properly resolved first."

In mid-April, some VW Chattanooga workers filed a petition for a new election at the plant to align maintenance and production employees with the UAW.

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

But in a 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.

Last month, the unionized unit of maintenance workers asked the NLRB to disclaim the second vote to clear the way for the new election, which was originally sought for late April.

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

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