Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga who are members of United Auto Workers Local 42 voted Friday for a president and other officers for the first time, saying they're making history.
But VW plant employees who are UAW opponents said they're still working toward the company recognizing their union as the employees' bargaining agent, and they maintain that Local 42's election of officers doesn't lend it any further credibility.
The local's election in Chattanooga comes as the UAW on Friday stepped up its organizing efforts at the Mercedes plant in Vance, Ala., with the formation of a similar non-dues-paying unit there.
At UAW Local 42, its members were choosing between three candidates for president -- Mike Cantrell, Monty D. Flannigan and John Wright -- as well as electing a vice president, secretary-treasurer, trustees and filling other offices.
"It's a moment in our history," said VW employee and UAW supporter Jonathan Walden outside the polling place at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers headquarters off Bonny Oaks Drive.
Jamie Crowden, another Local 42 member, said the voting marked "a real good day" for VW workers. He said having the UAW representing plant employees would mean better working conditions and more money.
The UAW has said that it has garnered a majority of hourly workers at the plant as members of the local branch. It hopes VW will start dealing with the local and essentially recognize it by doing so.
"We're looking forward to keeping the ball rolling," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel.
However, UAW opponent Mike Burton said efforts to form an American Council of Employees union for the VW plant are ongoing. He said supporters of ACE, which would be unaffiliated with the UAW, are about halfway to their goal of obtaining signatures of about a third of hourly VW workers.
Burton has said that if it does so, ACE would ask VW to hold an election at the plant asking employees to align with it.
He said VW hasn't said it supports the UAW's efforts.
"We don't feel like we're under the gun of having to do something immediately," Burton said.
Also Friday, an anti-UAW group based in Washington, D.C., the Center for Worker Freedom, said it has heard that VW plant management told supervisors that some workers were allowed to take time off to vote in the election without being charged vacation time.
"This is yet another example of Volkswagen management bending over backward to make it easier for the UAW to organize in Chattanooga, despite their promises to remain neutral in the matter," said CWF Executive Director Matt Patterson in a statement. "In effect, VW would be paying employees to do union activity if they allow this to happen."
VW officials couldn't be reached for comment.
But the UAW denied that workers were voting while on company time.
The UAW said employees were going to the IBEW office to vote before or after their shifts. Also, the workers running the election took unpaid time off, the UAW said.
Election results weren't available before the newspaper's deadline Friday night.
In Alabama on Friday, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International employees and the UAW, with support from the Daimler World Employee Committee and the German automotive trade union IG Metall, announced the formation of UAW Local 112.
The MBUSI plant in Tuscaloosa County, Ala., is the only Daimler plant in the world that does not currently offer employee representation, the UAW said.
Organized by MBUSI employees, Local 112 will offer workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace that aligns with Daimler AG's global commitment to the German principle of "co-determination" between management and employees, the union said.
"It's time for the committed and hard-working employees at MBUSI to have the same representation that Daimler employees enjoy around the world," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "It's the right thing to do. Plus, it will improve productivity and quality, ensuring success for both the company and the workforce."
The UAW Local 112 announcement follows a recent agreement between the UAW, the Daimler World Employee Committee, and IG Metall to advance employee representation at MBUSI. The agreement reaffirms the organizations' longstanding partnerships and cooperative efforts.
Last month, the UAW, VW's Global Group Works Council, and IG Metall unfurled a similar agreement related to organizing VW's Chattanooga plant.
Casteel, who in July was elected vice chairman of the Daimler World Employee Committee, called on that company to work with the new local union.
"Daimler has a clear global commitment to employee representation," said Casteel, a native of Muscle Shoals, Ala. "On a personal note, I'm proud to help advance job security and job growth in my home state through increased collaboration between Daimler's employees and management."
Last February, the UAW lost an employee vote to organize the VW plant by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.
In June, the union announced it would form the members-only local in Chattanooga and seek VW's recognition.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.