UAW files for VW recognition of 165 workers in Tennessee

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2015 2:59 PM

By Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) - The United Auto Workers on Friday filed for an election by 165 skilled trades workers at the Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the labor union said.

The union lost an election to represent all 1,500 hourly production workers at the plant in February 2014.

The filing for the election was made Friday with the National Labor Relations Board. Federal law allows a portion of a work location to be represented by a union, the UAW said.

No date for an election has been set, a UAW spokesman said.

Volkswagen did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

Gary Casteel, UAW secretary-treasurer and head of the union's effort to organize non-union auto plants, said VW's current form of recognition that allows union access to management on plant issues is short of the right to collectively bargain for workers that the UAW desires.

"Volkswagen's policy in Chattanooga was a gesture and our local union has engaged accordingly," said Casteel. "At the end of the day, the policy cannot be a substitute for meaningful employee representation and co-determination with management."

The Chattanooga plant has been viewed by the UAW for several years as its best chance to organize a foreign-owned plant in the southern United States. German, Japanese and South Korean companies have placed plants in the region where most states are so-called "right-to-work," where union membership cannot be a requirement of employment.

VW, which has a history of worker recognition through German-styled works councils that include blue- and white-collar employees, at its plants around the world, has been the least hostile foreign automaker to the union in its efforts to organize auto workers.

The UAW is in talks for a new four-year contract with General Motors Co after the union's Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV membership ratified a new deal for its 40,000 U.S. union workers.

Labor analysts say that the pay and benefits for union workers at the Detroit Three automakers influence labor costs for non-union southern U.S. plants of Volkswagen, Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co, Daimler AG and Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors.

Regarding pay, the non-union plants, said labor analyst Arthur Schwartz, "don't want to get too far out of whack because that would invite the UAW in. Georgetown in Kentucky (where Toyota has a large plant) has basically tried to keep pace and so far it's worked."

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Leslie Adler)