Big Labor and Big Business are working together to block autoworkers from defending a vote that defeated unionization in right-to-work Tennessee.
Employees at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant that rejected UAW representation by wide margins in February filed a motion before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) disputing union challenges to the outcome.
“If the [workers] are not allowed into this case, this … election process could go on forever. The UAW and Volkswagen could collude to schedule re-run elections over and over again, ad infinitum, until UAW representation is achieved,” the motion says. “It would be a mockery of justice for the board to allow only two colluding parties—the UAW and Volkswagen—to be parties to this objections proceeding. It would be akin to allowing two foxes to guard the henhouse.”
VW has been pushing the plant to form a European-style works council to serve as a go-between for management and employees. While such councils are not necessarily unionized in Europe, a VW board member threatened to cut off investments to the plant if workers refused to join the UAW.
“I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the South again,” Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council, said following the election. “If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor” of potentially building another plant in the U.S. South.
The UAW immediately rejected the workers' petition, arguing that only employees who are union members can appear before the NLRB.
“Employees not purporting to be a labor organization and not a party to the election lack standing to intervene in post-election proceedings,” it said in a filing.
The company said that employee views should play no role in the appeals process in a legal briefing submitted on Thursday.
“[VW] does not believe there is any basis for the motions to intervene to be granted,” it says.
Glenn Taubman, an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said that the company’s unwillingness to support the decision of its employees demonstrates that VW is committed to unionizing the plant.
“This dual opposition shows that VW and the UAW are colluding to unionize the Chattanooga plant and tamp down employee opposition to unionization at all costs,” Taubman told the Washington Free Beacon.
Five employees represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed the motion to intervene. David Reed, a longtime worker in the plant, joined the motion to intervene specifically because he feared that the company and union were colluding.
“Given the neutrality agreement signed by Volkswagen and the UAW and the alignment of these two parties, I believe that I must be heard regarding the UAW’s efforts to overturn our election victory and thereby deny employees our rights under the [National Labor Relations Act],” he said in the filings.
The NLRB is still reviewing the worker petition. Taubman said the decision will have long lasting effects on federal labor practices.
“If the NLRB agrees with these colluding parties and denies the employees any right to be heard in the UAW’s objections case, then it will show America, once and for all, that federal labor law is not designed for employee free choice, but rather is first and foremost for Big Business and Big Labor to strike whatever backroom deals suit them,” he said. “Employees have no rights and no place at the table in such a scheme.”