Four Volkswagen AG factory workers in Chattanooga, Tenn., have filed a federal complaint against the German automaker, accusing it of trying to force them to accept representation by the United Auto Workers union.
It is the latest bizarre twist in the UAW’s ongoing campaign to organize the one foreign-owned automobile factory in the United States that has not actively rebuffed the union.
While most foreign automakers have fought to keep the UAW out of their factories, Germany’s “co-determination” laws have made VW receptive to at least some form of union representation. Those laws give labor a significant voice on Volkswagen’s supervisory board, and representatives from the German auto union IG Metall have pressured management to enter discussions about union representation at the U.S. plant — the only major assembly plant without formal labor representation.
Last month, the UAW announced that a majority of workers at the Chattanooga plant had signed cards in support of union representation in creating a German-style works council. Now, a group of workers at the plant has accused VW of making worker acceptance of these works councils a condition of getting future product allocated for the factory.
The Chattanooga plant is competing with a VW factory in Mexico for a new crossover based on the CrossBlue concept shown in Detroit in January.
Last week, four VW workers in Chattanooga — backed by the National Right to Work Foundation — filed a formal complaint against the company with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing a senior manager of hinting that product would only come to Tennessee if workers there accepted UAW representation.
“With reports that Volkswagen is considering Chattanooga to build its new SUV, this is no idle threat,” said foundation president Mark Mix in a statement. “If VW management was discouraging workers from joining the UAW with threats, there’s little question that an NLRB prosecution would have already begun at the UAW’s behest.”
Both VW and the UAW declined to comment on allegations.
This is the latest in a series of legal moves, all made with the support of the National Right to Work Foundation, to block or delay the UAW’s organizing effort in Chattanooga.
Three of the workers who filed this complaint were parties to another complaint filed last month challenging the UAW’s “card check” system.