Volkswagen plant declines to join US auto workers union

Written by Press Trust of India | Chattanooga | Updated: Feb 16 2014, 09:03am hrs
The United Auto Workers (UAW) suffered a major defeat when workers at German auto giant Volkswagens Tennessee plant rejected its organising efforts.

The closely-watched vote came as the US labour movement is fighting for its survival after decades of shrinking membership rolls.

Volkswagen workers voted against joining the union in a final vote of 712 to 626 on Friday. While were outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union, were proud that these workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from outside, said UAW secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams, who directs the unions transnational programme.

We hope this will start a larger discussion about workers right to organise.

The unionisation efforts faced stiff opposition from local politicians, who warned that a UAW victory would make it harder to attract new jobs to Tennessee and even threatened to withhold tax credits that would help VW expand production.

A total of 1,338 employees at VWs Chattanooga plant89% of the workersvoted over a three-day period in the secret ballot election, which was monitored and tallied by the National Labour Relations Board.

Volkswagen opened the door to the UAW last year under pressure from German unions to give the Tennessee plant a seat on VWs global works council, which gives employees a say in the management of the company.

However, the tacit support of management was not sufficient to sway workers.

Volkswagens management seemed neutral to positive towards the UAWs attempt to organise the workers, said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book, a vehicle valuation company that also provides analysis of the automotive industry.

And yet the union still failed to gain certification, Nerad said in a statement, describing it as a serious setback for the union.

The UAWs attempts to organise other non-union plants in the US are very unlikely to be greeted with as much cooperation from other manufacturers, so this could mark the end to UAW hopes to gain traction in these non-union southern state plants, he said.

UAW president Bob King said he was outraged that politiciansincluding Republican US senator Bob Corkerthreatened Volkswagen and the workers if the workers unionised.

What I hope the American public understands is that those people who attacked this were attacking labour-management cooperation, King said.