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UAW forms local union in VW Chattanooga plant vicinity

11 July, 2014IndustriALL Global Union welcomes a move by affiliate UAW to set up a local branch for Volkswagen workers after it narrowly lost a battle for union representation at the carmaker’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

It is the first time that UAW has set up a local union branch specifically to represent workers in a single workplace.

UAW said the new Local 42, which is organized by Volkswagen employees, will give workers a voice at the plant through the German company’s works council approach to employee engagement.

Gary Casteel, UAW’s secretary-treasurer, said:

“We’ve had ongoing discussions with Volkswagen and have arrived at a consensus with the company. 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, the UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga.”

The Tennessee plant is the only Volkswagen manufacturing unit in the world which is not unionized.  

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:

We applaud the initiative from UAW to set up a local union branch as well as Volkswagen’s close cooperation with the union. It is high time for real freedom of association in the South of the United States, so that workers can freely join a union of their choice, without interference or intimidation.

In February 2014, UAW failed to gain the majority they needed to set up a works council within the Chattanooga plant by just 626 votes to 712. The election process was widely condemned for outside interference after an aggressive opposition campaign led by Republican politicians and anti-union groups, involving threats and intimidation.  

The State’s lawmakers threatened to withhold State economic incentives for the plant if it were unionized. Furthermore, in the lead up to the election Republican Senator Bob Corker wrongly claimed that Volkswagen would only produce a new SUV at the Chattanooga plant if the UAW failed to get union representation, which the car manufacturer vehemently denied.

UAW has now renewed requests for the State of Tennessee to extend the economic incentives so Volkswagen could add a new product line at the plant.

“State officials have assured the public and the Volkswagen workforce that the decision on incentives for Chattanooga is not related to whether workers exercise their right to join a union,” said Ray Curry, director of UAW Region 8.

The Local 42 is a big step forward in the efforts to organize more plants in the United States, particularly the South. IndustriALL is now working with affiliates to create local union branches for workers at other non-unionized companies in the country.