The United Auto Workers will move forward with plans to form a local union at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. UAW’s announcement comes months after the union failed to gain enough support to unionize employees at the VW plant.
In February, UAW lost a representation election at the VW Chattanooga plant by 86 votes. Despite the loss, union leaders continued negotiations with VW officials in an attempt to gain representation.
“We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees,” UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said in an interview with The Tennessean.
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Because of Tennessee’s right-to-work laws, plant employees cannot be forced to join the union. This voluntary union will not have the formal recognition and bargaining rights from the German automaker until it represents a majority of the plant’s workforce.
Justin Owen, president and chief executive of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, talked to the employees and community about the economic impact of unionization. Owen released a statement after UAW’s announcement.
“This collusion between VW and the union is a threat to employee freedom and sets a dangerous precedent that legally binding votes are irrelevant, and that unions can run end roads around the expressed consent of employees to get inside their workplaces and create conditions that pressure them to acquiesce,” he said.
The union’s announcement comes amidst a divided VW workforce.
Jonathan Walden, an employee at the Tennessee plant was supportive of UAW’s decision.
“Having access to the UAW’s expertise and support will keep the plant competitive and will keep our workforce on the cutting edge of productivity and quality. The members of Local 42 are ready to roll up our sleeves and focus on the future,” Walden said in an interview with WRCB.
In an interview with NPR, Mike Jarvis, an employee at the VW plant expressed his frustration with the union’s efforts.
“We have made a clear vote that no, the majority of us do not want the UAW in there,” Jarvis said.