UAW files for new union vote at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant

Image: WTVC

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has filed a new petition seeking to hold a vote on its representation of all hourly workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant.

The petition was filed Wednesday, the same day the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered a regional director to dismiss UAW's petition.

The union had recently renewed its efforts to represent workers at the plant after a representation vote fell short five years ago.

Volkswagen has said it is neutral on the issue of unionization. But it steadfastly refused to bargain with UAW after the union won representation of maintenance workers at the plant in 2015. VW has argued the bargaining unit needed to include production workers as well.

According to the union, the proposed new bargaining unit would encompass about 1,700 workers at the plant.

The news comes a day after three Democratic U.S. senators expressed concerns about delays to a possible election, and two days after the Chattanooga Labor Council held a rally for Volkswagen Chattanooga's workers.

Volkswagen employees, like Ashley Murray, say the NLRB's decision, has not dulled their desire to fight for a union.

"We'd have more security, more respect in the workplace, better health and safety conditions," said Murray.

Not all Volkswagen workers want that.

"People that I work with that do not want UAW, because they're not good for this plant, they're not good for workers, they're not good for Chattanooga," said Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga attorney who represents Southern Momentum, a group of Volkswagen workers who oppose UAW.

He says the union is more concerned with lining its own pockets, than ensuring the workers it represents, go home with a fair wage.

"You look at the reality of what they get and compare what they get wherever they've been. You know are they really getting more or are they really interested in the dues they're going ot get from the workers?"

Workers like Murray feel confident UAW will have their backs.

She's fighting for more paid time off.

Right now, she says Volkswagen only gives her nine days off, in total, each year. That includes time for sick and personal leave.

"They just want to vote. And if they vote, they just want Volkswagen to honor they vote and bargain with them," said Brian Rothenberg, a national spokesman for UAW.

Rothenberg was in Chattanooga from Detroit on Wednesday.

He hopes to hold a vote in June.

Read the full NLRB order below:

The UAW emailed NewsChannel 9 this response to the decision:

"In an unprecedented move caused by Volkswagen’s legal games, the NLRB this morning issued a split decision and dismissed Chattanooga workers’ petition for a vote but allowed it to be refiled.

This decision allows Chattanooga workers to quickly file another petition but creates yet another delay in the process. Volkswagen has continued to use legal games to aggressively deny its workers the right to vote for years. It's ridiculous and shows how broken the rights of workers are under our labor laws. But we will be on the NLRB's doorstep immediately to file again and demand a speedy election.

VW should be ashamed of this legal obstruction that led to this. It's sad how Volkswagens’ strategy of using high-priced legal games can stand in the way of the right to vote for Chattanooga workers. Chattanooga workers deserve to know from VW, how much money have you spent on these lawyers to try to stop us from having a voice?"

Meanwhile, the Chattanooga-based anti-union group Southern Momentum, which has long opposed UAW's attempts to establish a union, issued this statement in response to the news:

“Today, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the UAW played improper legal games in filing its petition to represent production and maintenance workers, despite the fact that there was already a certification of the maintenance workers in place,” said Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga-based lawyer for Evans Harrison Hackett PLC, who represented Southern Momentum in 2014. “The union knew what it was doing was legally wrong, but they did it anyway. When they got caught in their legal games, they tried to reverse course, while continuing to blame the company for their own wrongdoing.”

“Now the NLRB has ruled that Volkswagen was right all along, and the UAW was wrong,” added Nicely. “The UAW repeatedly accused Volkswagen of delay, but the NLRB ruled that ‘any delay is solely due to [the union’s] having filed its petition during the certification year.’ Workers should not put their faith in a union that refuses to follow the law, blames others for their own mistakes, repeatedly attacks an employer who has meant so much to this community, and has a track record of failure and divisiveness.”

“This is yet further proof that the UAW is dishonest, does not care about us and is only interested in lining its own pockets,” said Tony Walker, a team member at Volkswagen Chattanooga. “The UAW needs to stop playing games with our future.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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