Maury Nicely

The American Council of Employees says that officials at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant are purposely favoring the United Auto Workers in implementing a new labor policy.

"We hoped for a level playing field," said Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga lawyer representing ACE.

ACE, a labor group competing with the UAW at the plant, said it has submitted hundreds of signed "revocation statements," which signified employee intentions to revoke any prior authorization of representation by the UAW.

ACE said VW has declined to recognize the revocation statements. ACE said the recent verification of UAW membership was based solely on a random sampling from an unsubstantiated list of employee names, without supporting documentation or employee signatures.

"We are very troubled by the fact that Volkswagen has chosen to ignore signed statements clarifying the wishes of so many of its employees, while at the same time orchestrating a process by which the UAW's membership is verified without any supporting documentation whatsoever," Nicely said.

A top VW plant official, in a letter to Nicely, said the policy and process "ensure an accurate measurement of a group's membership support."

Sebastian Patta, the plant's executive vice president of human resources, said the policy requires labor groups to provide a list of enrolled members to the Chattanooga accounting firm Henderson, Hutcherson & McCullough.

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Sebastian Patta (Staff Photo by John Rawlston)

"It is not required or expected that an organization submit the actual authorization cards for review," he said.

Patta said that the date an employee became a member of the organization and/or signed an authorization card is immaterial for the purposes of the policy.

"If members no longer support the organization...this will be discovered during the verification process," he said.

But Nicely said that he has seen a stack "two inches thick" of revocation documents, and those should have been counted to ensure accuracy.

He said that he understands that out of the names the UAW submitted, the auditor picked a certain number, contacted them and reported the entire list as accurate.

"We want employees voices to be heard," he said.

Nicely also said that ACE plans to submit within a few weeks its own list of members. ACE officials said earlier that it expects to have signed up at least 15 percent, and perhaps as much as 30 percent, of the workforce.

Late last year, VW's auditor said UAW membership hit at least 45 percent of the blue-collar workers at the plant, triggering such rights as biweekly meetings with the plant's executive committee.

ACE would gain some, but not all, of the same rights at the plant if its list is approved.

In February, the UAW lost an organizing vote at the plant, 712 to 626, but it claimed interference by Republican politicians.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.