Saying foreign union groups appear to be conspiring with the United Auto Workers to force workers into its ranks at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant, a right to work entity is seeking federal action.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said officials from the German IG Metall union, VW's Global Group Works Council, the UAW, and VW in Germany have taken part in "high profile public activities...that trigger Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act reporting requirements."
"As it stands now, American employees of Volkswagen do not know what inside arrangements exist among UAW, IG Metall, Global Works Council, and VW...," said Mark Mix, the foundation's president. He cited activities such as "bounties and future dues sharing."
"I call on you to immediately use your authorized powers to demand [disclosure reports] from IG Metall and the Global Works Council," he said.
Mix said the Labor Department so far has ignored the high-profile labor activities and the reporting requirements. If it continues to do so, union and company officials "may receive de facto immunity for their possible violations of the LMRDA's criminal and civil protections."
Mike Trupo, a Department of Labor spokesman, said the agency received the letter and would review it. He declined further comment.
The UAW did not comment on the allegations.
The foundation terms itself as a nonprofit, charitable organization to "eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs."
LMRDA requires union officials to make comprehensive and detailed disclosure of union financial data, according to the foundation. It also prohibits persons convicted of serious crimes from serving as union officers, forces full reporting by union officers of any personal conflict-of-interest transactions, and prohibits the channeling of bribes and improper influence through middlemen.
Last week, VW in Chattanooga unveiled a new policy that sets guidelines for interactions with labor organizations whose membership includes a significant percent of VW employees.
Both the UAW and the American Council of Employees have said they've got a lot of employees in their labor groups and want recognition from VW.
But IG Metall, which represents most VW workers in Germany, weighed in Friday, calling on VW to recognize the UAW at the Chattanooga plant and criticizing the automaker for potential dealings with ACE.
The union in a statement called on VW to "show its true colors" in officially recognizing the UAW as its bargaining partner.
"IG Metall will not accept if Volkswagen treats the UAW just as one as those groups who have acted in the past resolutely against the union," said IG Metall President Detlef Wetzel on the union's website.
The Right to Work Foundation, in its letter, said IG Metall and the Global Works Council attempted as early as April 12, 2013, to persuade VW employees in Chattanooga to join the UAW. In addition, IG Metall and the GWC at that time also tried to persuade VW to voluntarily recognize the UAW.
"In recent years IG Metall has had its representatives visit Chattanooga in order to hold meetings with the UAW...," the foundation said. "It is highly likely that the secret agreements and activities of IG Metall and GWC have triggered federal persuader rules that require disclosure...," the letter said.
In February, the UAW lost a recognition election by a vote of 712 to 626. It complained of Republican political interference in the election.
Gary Casteel, the UAW's secretary-treasurer, said last week the union will start working with VW so the automaker can verify the UAW's membership level in Chattanooga and it can begin engaging the automaker inside the plant.
"When that verification has been completed, we will take advantage of the company's offer to establish regular meetings with Volkswagen human resources and the Volkswagen Chattanooga executive committee," said Casteel, adding that a majority of workers are members of UAW Local 42, which the union set up this summer as a non-dues-paying unit.
ACE officials said it has seen "a dramatic increase" in the organization's membership after VW announced the new policy. "This policy has helped pave the way for a flood of new members joining our organization," said Sean Moss, interim president of ACE.
Moss said "the outpouring of support in just the last few days is driven by the overwhelming desire of VW-Chattanooga employees to find a locally-led, community-focused organization that can serve as an alternative to the outdated UAW model directed by outside political interests."
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.