UAW members didn't give up after a vote to unionize at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., barely missed passage in February. They continued to move forward, and the union announced Thursday that it had reached a consensus with VW and will form Local 42 for workers at the Chattanooga plant. While no formal agreement has been reached, UAW officials say they expect the automaker to recognize the union once enough of the plant's employees have signed up, although no specific threshold was announced.
An op-ed in the Times Free Press laid out the stakes at the Tennessee plant:
There is a lot at stake: a new SUV assembly line at Enterprise South industrial park and about 1,350 new full-time jobs, the red faces of Tennessee politicians, UAW's survival, VW's strong belief in a works-council culture that puts workers in decision-making partnership with plant management, a new union hybrid that might be palatable all across the South and Chattanooga's future.
The February vote was heavily influenced by outside sources, including numerous Republican politicians, who relied upon big money and dishonest anti-union propaganda to convince a slim majority of the eligible workers to vote against the union. The UAW initially challenged the vote with the National Labor Relations Board but withdrew the challenge not long before announcing that consensus had been reached with VW.
None of the plant's workers will be required to join the union and no dues will be collected before a collective bargaining contract is agreed upon. VW previously expressed interest in creating a European-style works council at the Chattanooga plant. The automaker's plants in other countries are all covered by collective bargaining agreements, with the Tennessee plant being the lone exception.
The UAW was optimistic:
With UAW's announcement Thursday that it is back and planning to stay, and with VW's "no comment," clearly the game is on again. There still has been no announcement about where the SUV will go, so it's fair to assume that VW must really like Chattanooga. It's also fair to assume that UAW still sees plenty— perhaps growing—potential here.
So do we.
When UAW's new local has enough signers, our VW will become the first unionized foreign auto plant in the South.
Not only that, but the new U.S. hybrid union—this works council—will have been pioneered here.
A local conservative "think" tank, the Beacon Center, effectively said it didn't want new jobs in Tennessee if they were union jobs and is calling on the government to refuse to give VW any financial incentives if union efforts move forward.