Work­ers may put brakes on UAW drive

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

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.”

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