UAW charters Chattanooga local for VW plant workers

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Unique voluntary concept will keep union viable in plant

WORKERS ASSEMBLE Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.  – Erik Schelzig/AP photo
WORKERS ASSEMBLE Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
– Erik Schelzig/AP photo

Chattanooga, TN (PAI) – With right-wing political interference having beaten the United Auto Workers' prior attempt to unionize and then establish a joint labor-management works council at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN, the union is trying again.

It's chartering a new union local to accomplish the same goal – but possibly without a second vote.

HONORING JACKIE

New Local 42 – a number chosen intentionally to honor the late Jackie Robinson, who integrated major league baseball in 1947 – got its charter on July 10.

UAW did not say it would try for another recognition election. Instead, it said it would push for a “works council” at the plant, and that local membership would be voluntary.

VW has joint labor-management works councils deciding issues at its other plants worldwide, except in Chattanooga and in China. VW tacitly supported the UAW in the first vote.

But UAW, after the multi-million-dollar Right Wing anti-union smear campaign, lost 712-626 in February. Chattanooga is part of UAW's campaign to organize workers at “transplants” – plants foreign automakers deliberately established in the anti-union South.

“Organized by Volkswagen employees, Local 42 offers workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace through the German automaker’s 'works council' approach to employee engagement,” UAW said in a statement.

“Volkswagen’s business model is premised on employee representation, and Local 42 will represent any interested employees who join the local as members. No employees will be required to join.”

“Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members,” new UAW President Dennis Williams said. “We said we would not give up on these committed and hard-working employees. We’re keeping our promise.”

COMPANY-UNION CONSENSUS

After ongoing discussions, VW and UAW “arrived at a consensus,” said union Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel, UAW's former southern regional director.

“Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members’ union that represents those employees who join the local.

“As part of this consensus, UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga,” Casteel said.

“Being part of the creation of an American-style works council is a chance to do something new and different,” said Michael Cantrell, a VW paint technician. “This is about securing good jobs for the future, and building lasting partnerships between management and team members.”

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