Now that the United Auto Workers (UAW) have declared that they are supported by a majority of eligible employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant, the UAW seeks to implement a German-style works council at the factory.
As we reported back in December 2014, the UAW has reached the highest level of recognition pursuant to VW’s labor policy. Since that time, UAW representatives have been allowed to meet with VW management officials twice a week, and have also been given the freedom to hold meetings with employees and post notices.
During meetings with management officials, the parties apparently crafted a platform for a German-style works council, which is a group made up of both management and bargaining-unit employees that meets to discuss wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.
“UAW Local 42 is advancing a German-style works council concept that we jointly developed with Volkswagen Group of America in January 2014,” said Gary Casteel, UAW secretary-treasurer.
Interestingly, Casteel also noted that the UAW is not currently ready to file papers to hold a union election, nor is the union asking the National Labor Relations Board to accept authorization cards from UAW supporters. This course of action seems inconsistent with the UAW’s make-or-break “Southern Strategy”, the goal of which is to organize as many deep-South facilities as possible.
And despite the UAW’s push for a works-council, VW stated that it would continue to work with the American Council of Employees (ACE), a rival union that is also seeking to organize VW’s employees. ACE has previously referred to VW’s labor policy as “unfair” and has warned the company not to dole out improper benefits to the UAW.
So now the ball is in VW’s court. The UAW’s strategy seems to be to wait for VW to begin to form a “works-council,” most likely so that the union does not have to risk losing another election in embarrassing fashion. But as Tennessee politicos are staunchly anti-union, the union faces an uphill battle no matter what happens next.