NASHVILLE — Seeking to set the tone of local debate about their renewed union representation effort at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant, the United Auto Workers is airing a television spot featuring workers stating their case directly to the general public.
The 60-second spot began airing earlier this month in a $25,000 ad buy. It features six VW workers — five men and one woman — with speaking roles saying "it's time" for a vote. The commercial includes images of an outside view of VW's plant and downtown's Walnut Street Bridge.
It comes after the UAW earlier this month filed a new petition for a union vote at Chattanooga's plant after the National Labor Relations Board dismissed a similar request made in April.
It begins with a voice of a man saying "our frustration has grown" as he looks directly into a camera with a piano softly playing in the background. A woman says "schedules change" while a second man says "our time's disrespected" and yet another says "we local Chattanooga workers deserve better."
Workers individually pick up the them of "it's time," with the spot later ending with the woman saying "it's time to put Chattanooga workers first."
Asked about the union's direct appeal to the public in the ad, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in an interview that "Chattanooga workers just want the right to vote and they want a fair chance to vote to have a union just like every other VW worker in the world. And that's what this is about."
All the adults featured in the ad are VW plant workers, Rothenberg said.
But Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga attorney for the anti-UAW group Southern Momentum, said earlier this month that any delays were caused by the UAW, which initially sought and won an election in 2015 for skilled maintenance workers and then agreed to drop that request to have a vote of all of the hourly production workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga.
"The UAW repeatedly accused Volkswagen of delay, but the NLRB ruled that 'any delay is solely due to [the union's] having filed its petition during the certification year,'" Nicely said. "Workers should not put their faith in a union that refuses to follow the law, blames others for their own mistakes, repeatedly attacks an employer who has meant so much to this community, and has a track record of failure and divisiveness."
The UAW is now seeking a three-day union vote to be scheduled at the Volkswagen plant starting June 12. That came after the National Labor Relations Board dismissed an earlier request for a union vote in late April.
Attorneys for Volkswagen had sought to block a general vote among about 1,700 eligible workers until questions about a smaller bargaining unit were resolved.
The UAW's previous plant-wide union election was defeated on a 712-626 vote back in 2014 with Tennessee political leaders led by then-Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga, a former city mayor, leading the charge.
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