- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A rival labor group at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee is urging skilled-trades workers to vote against union representation by the United Auto Workers.

Voting got underway Thursday morning and will conclude Friday night. The election affects 162 workers who maintain and repair machinery and robots at the plant.

The American Council of Employees was formed by workers who opposed UAW representation in a February 2014 vote among all hourly workers at the plant. The UAW lost that election on a 712-626 vote.

The rival group said in a letter to workers at the plant that the UAW’s move would serve to “subdivide maintenance workers with no concern for how this might negatively impact employees’ long-term interests.”

The letter also criticized the union for seeking the vote amid the automaker’s efforts to cope with its diesel emissions cheating scandal that contributed to a 60 percent drop in sales of the Chattanooga-made Passat in November.

“Volkswagen and our facility are in the midst of a crisis,” the letter said. “We need unity now more than ever.”

A UAW spokesman declined to the respond to the letter, which was released after voting began.

Volkswagen has announced it will appeal a federal ruling allowing the vote by the smaller group of workers rather than by all 1,400 hourly employees at the plant.

The UAW is seeking to organize workers for the first time at a foreign-owned auto plant in the South.

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