UAW hopes VW will recognize union as bargaining agent
Washington — The United Auto Workers said Thursday it wants Volkswagen AG to recognize the union as the bargaining agent for employees at the German automaker's Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant without seeking a new vote by employees.
Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, who heads the International Union's Transnational Department, said the union has submitted a framework to VW for creating a German-style works council and said he hoped the automaker would take that step. He said the union has tried to be patient, but said he thinks it is time to act.
Last month, the UAW filed a statement with the Labor Department that said it had the support of 55 percent of workers at the union, or 816 workers. "We're not looking for another election, but we do want to be the exclusive bargaining agent. The quicker the better," Casteel said in a conference call. But he declined to name a timeline in which he hopes VW recognizes the UAW."
The new push comes after VW's chairman resigned and a longtime union official, Berthold Huber, was named acting chairman. In early 2014, VW and the UAW "outlined a framework through which the union and the company could together establish a path for management and employees to cooperate on matters inside the plant. A more detailed version of this concept, in the form of a proposed 'Vision Statement,' has been submitted to the company for its consideration," Casteel said.
VW didn't directly answer if it will require a new vote by employees before recognizing the UAW as employee's bargaining agent. It said Thursday its policy of engagement with worker representatives "has been a very effective way to start dialogue with each of the groups and we intend to continue."
In December, VW said it was awarding the UAW access rights after an audit showed it has the support of nearly half of plant workers — but wasn't recognized as the bargaining agent. The decision meant the UAW's Local 42 could meet bi-weekly with Volkswagen Human Resources and monthly with the Volkswagen Chattanooga Executive Committee to talk about issues. It enables the union to reserve and utilize on-site locations for meetings on non-work time with staff or employees.
In February, VW said an anti-UAW organization called the American Council of Employees has enough support to represent some workers at the plant. The automaker said an external auditor verified that ACE met requirements to represent both hourly and salary employees under its Community Organization Engagement Policy that states a group must achieve support from at least 15 percent of the workers it looks to represent.
The labor group is an alternative to the UAW, which was designated to have access to hourly employees last year after failing to garner enough votes to be the sole representative for plant workers.
In mid-November, the German automaker said it would not immediately recognize the UAW until an external audit established its membership level — and it opened the door to working with other groups representing employees.
VW's policy requires a union to get at least 45 percent of eligible employees in a specific group to join.
The UAW suffered a big setback in February 2014, when workers voted 712-626 to reject creation of a German-style works council. The vote came after heavy pressure from Republican lawmakers. In July, the UAW opted to form a local to represent workers in Chattanooga, rather than hold another election.
VW has more than 100 plants worldwide, and only the Chattanooga plant is non-union. In July, VW said it would commit $900 million and create 2,000 jobs to build mid-size SUVs in Tennessee.