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NLRB upholds union vote at VW Chattanooga plant

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

A small group of Volkswagen of America workers in Tennessee are a step closer to being represented by the United Auto Workers union.

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday denied a request by the German automaker for a review of a December election in which a majority of skilled-trades workers at VW’s Chattanooga plant supported union organization.

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the International union’s Transnational Department, called on VW to “immediately move forward” with recognizing UAW Local 42, which the union established in Tennessee in 2014.

“With today’s order, the NLRB has clearly stated that it views the skilled-trades election in Chattanooga as a legal and appropriate step toward meaningful employee representation,” he said in a statement.

Scott Neal Wilson, a spokesman for VW in Chattanooga, confirmed the automaker received the NLRB’s decision but declined to speculate on the company’s next move.

“We are reviewing the decision and evaluating our options,” he said in an email to The Detroit News. “We have no further comment at this time.”

The three-member NLRB panel voted 2-1 to deny the motion.

Philip A. Miscimarra, the dissenting vote, said he believed a review “gives rise to substantial issues regarding the potential inappropriateness of the petitioned-for bargaining unit, which consists exclusively of maintenance employees and excludes production and other employees.”

The facility’s 160-plus skilled trades workers, who specialize in repairing and maintaining machinery and robots at the Chattanooga plant, voted in favor of having the UAW negotiate collective bargaining deals on their behalf by a margin of 108-44 (71 percent) in December.

But the company has refused to enter into contract negotiations, prompting the union to file charges against Volkswagen Group of America with the NLRB in late December. At around the same time, Volkswagen reportedly filed a request for review of the NLRB Regional Director's decision to allow an election.

UAW officials reiterated that the timing of the skilled trades election is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. UAW Local 42 members asked Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled trades employees in August 2015 — more than a month before the emissions scandal was revealed.

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UAW Local 42

August 2015: Members of UAW Local 42 ask Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled-trades employees at the Chattanooga plant. The company declines the request.

October 2015: UAW Local 42 files paperwork with the NLRB seeking a representation election for employees in the skilled-trades unit.

November 2015 : The NLRB rules in favor of UAW Local 42 and orders an election for 160 skilled-trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, rejecting an attempt by the company to block the election.

December 2015: Skilled-trades employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga vote overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their bargaining representative. The NLRB confirms that 71 percent of employees voting favored recognition for UAW Local 42. Volkswagen refuses to recognize UAW Local 42 or enter into collective bargaining, and asks the NLRB for a review of the election.

February 2016: UAW Local 42 files charges with the NLRB stipulating that Volkswagen is violating the National Labor Relations Act and has “unlawfully continued to refuse to bargain.”

April 2016: The NLRB denies Volkswagen’s request for a review of the December election, in effect, upholding the election and its results.