Group hits labor unions as VW Chattanooga vote nears

Group hits labor unions as VW Chattanooga vote nears

November 23rd, 2015 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A factory worker performs diagnostics on a Passat before it is taken through a dyanometer in the assembly section of the Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Volkswagen's Chattanooga manufacturing plant has implemented energy management and environmentally friendly procedures which will be used in other Volkswagen plants across the globe.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

A Washington, D.C., group that opposes compulsory union membership said Monday the U.S. Department of Labor is favoring "Big Labor" organizations such as German union IG Metall and the United Auto Workers as Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant readies for another union vote.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, said his department is ignoring IG Metall's failure to file federal disclosure papers.

"Will the Department of Labor stop favoring Big Labor officials like those at IG Metall and take the Congressionally authorized legal action against the IG Metall officials for their violation of U.S. disclosure laws?" the letter by foundation President Mark Mix asked.

More than a year ago, the foundation said the activities by IG Metall and the UAW regarding VW triggered federal reporting requirements. But, the Department of Labor hasn't required IG Metall to take action, the letter said.

Last week, IG Metall, Germany's largest trade union, announced it's opening an office in Spring Hill, Tenn., to work with the UAW to organize German auto companies and suppliers.

On Dec. 3 and 4, about 164 maintenance workers at the VW plant are to vote on whether to have the UAW represent them for collective bargaining purposes.

IG Metall and the U.S. Department of Labor could not immediately be reached for comment. The UAW declined to comment.

Patrick Semmens, the foundation's vice president for public information, said the federal disclosure papers would show if there's any money exchanging hands between IG Metall and the UAW.

"But there is no question in our mind that given [IG Metall's] activities working with the UAW to attempt to impose unionization on VW employees, it has triggered some, if not multiple disclosure requirements," he said.

Semmens said he thinks the Department of Labor isn't requiring the disclosure papers because President Barack Obama's administration is generally pro-union.

"Unions have spent between the two election cycles [involving President Obama] over $2 billion," Semmens said. "It's a deference to their political allies."

Last week, IG Metall and the UAW said they would deepen their partnership and set up the office near the General Motors production plant in Middle Tennessee.

Frankfurt-based IG Metall estimates 100,000 employees work for German auto manufacturers in the United States.

"We want to help the UAW to comprehensively ensure good working conditions, fair remuneration and genuine employee participation rights in the United States," said Wolfgang Lemb, an IG Metall executive board member, according to Reuters.

For the UAW, the partnership is a chance to develop new approaches in representing employees' interests, said Gary Casteel, UAW vice president and head of its organizing effort at foreign-owned plants.

"The Germans understand better than anyone in the world that what's best for employees is best for the employers," Casteel said at a news conference in Spring Hill.

The UAW lost a vote to organize blue-collar workers at VW's Chattanooga plant in February 2014 by a vote of 712 to 626.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.


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