April 20, 2024

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Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga seek votes to join the union

Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga seek votes to join the union

Volkswagen employees in Tennessee hoping to join the United Auto Workers union asked a federal agency Monday to hold an election, a major step toward the union's long-standing goal of organizing non-union plants across the South.

Volkswagen workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board demanding a vote on unionizing after a “vast majority” of the plant's 4,000 eligible workers signed cards supporting the UAW, the union said.

She did not specify how many workers signed the cards, but she previously advised workers to obtain the card Supporting more than 70 percent of hourly workers Establish a strong organizing committee before seeking elections. A simple majority vote is needed to win representation.

“Today, we are one step closer to turning a good job at Volkswagen into a great career,” Isaac Meadows, an assembly worker at the plant, said in a statement. issued by the Union.

The election at the plant will be the first test of the UAW's strength after the union staged a wave of strikes in the fall against Detroit's three automakers — General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis — and won record wage increases — encouraged by the Biden administration.

Volkswagen said in a statement on Monday that it would “fully support” holding elections that would give every employee a chance to vote on union representation. “We respect our workers’ right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests,” the company said.

Later Monday, President Biden issued a statement congratulating Volkswagen workers for filing in the union elections.

The UAW hoped to use the momentum from its bargaining with Detroit manufacturers to organize non-union factories in Southern states that paid much lower wages than union factories. The UAW says it plans to spend $40 million over the next three years on its campaign.

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Chattanooga workers have voted for UAW representation twice before, and a narrow majority has refused to join the union each time. In the 2014 vote, the union had no opposition from Volkswagen management, but there was outright resistance from Republican leaders in the state, who suggested that unionizing would jeopardize expansion and job growth at the plant. The second narrow loss came in 2019.

The UAW is in a strong position to get a majority this time, said Arthur Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

“Now they have much more support from lawmakers, the public and the president,” he added. “They can say, ‘We can help you get better wages and benefits, and we've proven we can do that with the Big Three.'

Over the past 40 years, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and other foreign-owned automakers have built more than two dozen auto plants throughout the South and lower Midwest, hurt by right-to-work laws that make it difficult for unions to organize workers. .

They also often chose to build factories in rural areas where prevailing wages were much lower than in Michigan and other northern states.

In addition to Volkswagen's efforts, union campaigns are underway at a Mercedes-Benz plant and a Hyundai plant, both in Alabama. The union says more than half of Mercedes workers and more than 30 percent of Hyundai workers have signed cards supporting UAW membership.

Volkswagen workers said they want to join the UAW to push for higher wages, increased vacation and improved safety procedures. The Chattanooga plant opened in 2011 and manufactures the Atlas full-size SUV and the ID.4 electric vehicle. It is the only Volkswagen plant in the world without union representation.

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“VW has partnered with unionized workforces around the world to make its factories safe and successful,” logistics worker Victor Vaughn said in the union statement. “That's why we vote for VW here in Chattanooga.”

The UAW is likely to receive support in the election from the powerful German labor union, IG Metall, which under German law holds half the seats on Volkswagen's supervisory board, the equivalent of a US board of directors.

The UAW has sought for years to organize these non-union auto plants without success, but the unions have succeeded rebound in recent years In organizing efforts and contract confrontations.

GM, Ford and Stellantis agreed in the fall to pay increases of about 25 percent for the highest-paid workers in the UAW, and even larger raises for workers at the bottom of the pay scale.

Within a few years, all of the roughly 146,000 UAW workers at Detroit companies will earn more than $40 an hour — the equivalent of about $83,000 a year for those who work 40 hours a week.

Volkswagen factory Announce An 11 percent wage increase came shortly after the strikes at the Big Three, bringing the top hourly wage for production workers to $32.40.

Non-union auto plants generally start new workers at less than $20 per hour and pay a top wage of less than $30 per hour.