NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A group opposed to the United Auto Workers union has qualified for the bottom tier of a labor policy at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Tennessee.
The German automaker announced to workers Monday that the American Council of Employees had met the minimum threshold of signing up at least 15 percent of hourly and salaried employees at the Chattanooga facility.
Many of the group’s leaders played prominent roles in the narrow defeat of the UAW in a unionization vote in February 2014.
The company’s labor policy establishes whether and how frequently labor groups can hold meetings or bring their concerns before management depending on whether groups sign up 15, 30 or 45 percent of workers.
UAW Local 42 in December won certification for the top tier of Volkswagen’s policy by signing up at least 45 percent of blue collar workers at the plant. The policy does not address collective bargaining rights, though the UAW is pressing to be recognized as the exclusive negotiating partner at the plant.
VW management has been under heavy pressure from powerful worker representatives who control half of the automaker’s board in Germany because the U.S. plant is alone among the company’s worldwide plants without labor representation.
The company wants to create a German-style works council at the Tennessee plant to represent salaried and hourly workers. Under that model, wages are bargained through the union, while the council negotiates matters like job security and working conditions.
“UAW Local 42 represents in excess of 50 percent of the blue-collar workforce,” Mike Cantrell, president of the local, said in a statement. “We are focused on representing our members and solidifying our partnership with the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, which has said clearly that it wants the Chattanooga plant to be a ‘UAW-represented facility.’”
If the UAW succeeds at Volkswagen, it would become the first foreign auto plant in the South to be represented by a union.
Under the bottom tier of the VW policy, the American Council of Employees may reserve the conference center for meetings with workers at the plant once per month, post announcements and meet once per month with company human officials.
In the top tier, the UAW can reserve meeting space as often as “reasonably needed” and can also bring in external speakers. It can also meet with human resources officials every two weeks and the plant’s executive committee every month.
Volkswagen’s policy of giving labor groups access to its plant stands in contrast to other foreign automakers in the South, which have largely tried to tamp down union activity.
Volkswagen has said the policy is aimed at developing a “constructive dialogue” between workers and management.
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