UAW accuses VW of stalling on Tenn. labor negotiations

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The United Auto Workers union is accusing Volkswagen of ignoring a labor board ruling that ordered the company to negotiate with members of its Local 42 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Gary Casteel, UAW secretary-treasurer, said the German automaker is ignoring a 2016 ruling from the National Labor Relations Board validating a successful 2015 election that saw skilled trades workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant vote to unionize. The NLRB had ordered the automaker to begin negotiations with the union.

“For months, Volkswagen has used every stall tactic available to avoid recognizing workers’ right to form a union and negotiate a contract,” Casteel said in an email to UAW members directing them to sign a petition on Wednesday.

“I’m asking you to stand in solidarity with UAW Local 42 members in Chattanooga and millions of supporters around the world,” he continued. “Sign the petition now and tell Volkswagen to put an end to the stall tactics.”

Scott Wilson, head of communications for Volkswagen in Chattanooga, said Volkswagen is appealing the labor relations board’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The company is challenging the grounds of the UAW’s election because it was limited to VW’s skilled trades workers.

“As in the past, Volkswagen continues to respect the rights of its employees to decide freely in the question of union representation,” Wilson said in an email to The Detroit News. “But we believe that a union representation solely for the group of maintenance workers will divide the workforce and will not satisfy the shared interests of all employees – namely, maintenance workers and production employees – who are eligible to vote.”

The NLRB denied a request by Volkswagen for a review of the December 2015 election last year.

The skilled trades workers, who specialize in repairing and maintaining machinery and robots at the German automaker’s factory in Chattanooga, voted in favor of having the UAW negotiate collective bargaining deals on their behalf by a margin of 108-44 (71 percent) in that month’s election.

The vote took place 20 months after the union was narrowly defeated in an election involving all hourly plant employees.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing