A rival labor group to the United Auto Workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant said Saturday it expects to have signed up at least 15 percent, and perhaps as many as 30 percent, of the workforce as members by late January.
The American Council of Employees plans next month to turn over names of its members to VW, which will have signatures verified by an independent auditor, ACE supporters said Saturday after a meeting at the group's headquarters.
Then, the group will gain some, but not all, of the rights to formally talk with company officials and meet inside the plant which the UAW garnered last week in accordance with a new plant policy.
The auditor said UAW membership hit at least 45 percent, triggering such rights as biweekly meetings with the plant's executive committee.
Kay Fiorello, a VW employee and ACE supporter, said at its Bonny Oaks Drive office that the group will continue to sign up members and "get them a voice."
"Our main focus is we really want a works council," she said. VW officials have indicated they want a works council, a panel of employees who oversee working conditions, in Chattanooga, as in nearly all its major plants worldwide.
If ACE hits a significant number of members, the labor group said it doesn't believe VW will grant the UAW exclusive representation of the plant's workforce.
"We don't believe the company will do that," Fiorello said.
The UAW has made company recognition a key goal, enabling it to begin work on a collective bargaining contract.
Mike Cantrell, president of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga and a plant employee, said last week that the union's primary purpose is to seek recognition from VW and it has signed up a majority of the plant's blue-collar workers.
"I don't consider ACE an option," Cantrell said. "When you look at true labor organizations, they don't fall into that status."
ACE members said Saturday they're signing up both hourly and salaried workers, and each can be members of the works council.
ACE member Ken Endicott said the meeting drew about 20 people. The purpose was to talk about the group's goals and to tell them what it can offer.
"We're open to all employees," he said.
ACE has challenged some signatures the UAW turned in to VW for verification as "inaccurate, unreliable and out of date."
Sean Moss, interim president of ACE, said he's expecting "a substantial reduction" in the UAW's membership total to be announced by the independent auditor.
But Cantrell called the claims "bogus and without merit."
"As anticipated, UAW Local 42 quickly surpassed the highest level under the company's new Community Organization Engagement policy, and the local union's membership exceeds a majority of workers at the plant. UAW Local 42 is moving forward in collaborative talks with Volkswagen and will not be distracted by this nonsense," he said.
Plant officials unveiled the new policy last month, saying it would open dialogue with labor groups based on their membership levels.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.
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