UAW chief backs labor board decisions on email, organizing votes

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2014 12:40 PM

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - The president of the United Auto Workers union on Monday called the National Labor Relations Board's recent decisions to allow employees to use company email to organize and unions to hold faster elections to represent workers "the right thing to do."

"It made all the sense in the world," Dennis Williams told reporters at the union's headquarters in Detroit. "Whether or not it will stand depends on who wins the next elections, who's going to be the next president, who's going to (control) Congress."

Last week, the NLRB said in a split decision that electronic communication was the modern-day version of a "water cooler" where employees discuss workplace issues. Business groups said this approach could lead to the abuse of their costly email systems.

The NLRB also adopted a rule to streamline union elections in a move business leaders said will cut down on the time companies have to run anti-union campaigns.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who said the decision authorized "ambush elections," have proposed legislation to prevent the board's rule.

The NLRB is a federal agency tasked with overseeing union elections and policing unfair labor practices. It has been criticized by employers as biased toward labor causes.

The UAW's Williams on Monday also said the union was focused on organizing and was in "constant communications" with Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> and the local union it formed at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about representing the plant's workers. It gave no timetable for when the union might attain exclusive bargaining rights for the plant's 1,500 blue-collar workers.

Earlier this month, the UAW gained a partial and unconventional recognition from VW after proving to the company it represents at least 45 percent of the Tennessee plant's workers. Williams reiterated Monday the union represents a majority of the plant's workers.

The UAW has also targeted organizing Daimler's Mercedes plant in Alabama, but Williams acknowledged organizing in the U.S. South will get harder.

Williams declined to provide details on the union's expected stance in talks next year for new labor deals with the three Detroit automakers: General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group. He said he wants to bridge the gap between second-tier wages, which start at less than $16.00 an hour, and those of veteran workers, who earn about $28 an hour.

(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; editing by Matthew Lewis)