Workers may put brakes on UAW drive
call for a secret-ballot election that would give employees a chance to express their opinions.
“Volkswagen is stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Mr. Mix said, because the company doesn’t want to anger the unions but does want to respect its employees’ wishes.
In a sales call last month, Jonathan Browning, the president and CEO of the automaker’s American division, said, “We have also said, repeatedly, that ultimately the decision of formal, third-party representation is up to our employees, through a formal vote. And I think the simplest statement is those realities haven’t changed.”
When rumors began to swirl that Volkswagen was willing to recognize the UAW, a group of employees fought back. They organized a counterpetition that has garnered more than 560 signatures from about one-third of the company’s nearly 1,600 employees, saying they don’t want to join a union.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation then filed a pair of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the employees. The first complaint accused the United Auto Workers of tricking employees into signing up for the union.
The second contended that Volkswagen coerced employees to join the UAW. The lawsuit says an executive at the company indicated that workers would get to produce a popular new model only if they accepted UAW representation, which would be a violation of labor law.
The United Auto Workers did not respond to requests for comment on the complaints or its organizing drive.
But anti-union activists and a growing number of Volkswagen’s Tennessee employees fear that organizing the plant in Chattanooga would give the UAW the leverage and momentum it needs to launch similar organizing drives at transplant factories such as Nissan’s plant in Canton, Miss., Mercedes-Benz’s plant in Vance, Ala., and BMW’s plant in Greer, S.C. Hyundai, Kia, Honda and Toyota also have automobile factories in the South that would be vulnerable to such moves.
“Obviously, we do not want the UAW to have a presence in our community,” Mr. Corker said.
Many Tennesseans are afraid the UAW also will cost their state business if it sets up shop there. Mr. Haslam told NPR that he doesn’t want the UAW to organize at Volkswagen because, “one of the reasons is, we’ve had several prospective companies say that decision will impact whether we choose Tennessee or somewhere else.”
The ramifications extend beyond Tennessee.
“We’re not just worried about the impact it would have here,” Mr. Corker said, “but over time, the negative impact it would have on the South, in general.”