Volkswagen Will Take UAW Vote to Court

Challenges NLRB approach to micro unions

April 28, 2016

Volkswagen is pushing back against the UAW campaign to unionize a subset of workers in right-to-work Tennessee in a case that is bound for federal court.

The company says it will appeal a National Labor Relations Board ruling that would allow skilled maintenance workers to organize. The NLRB, which oversees all union elections, approved the December election results in April.

Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson said the union should not be able to cherry pick and divide workers within the plant in order to organize the factory piecemeal. The company plans to appeal the NLRB decision in federal court.

"We disagree with the decision to separate Volkswagen maintenance and production workers and will continue our effort to allow everyone to vote as one group on the matter of union representation," Wilson said in an email to the Washington Free Beacon.

Workers at the plant rejected the UAW by a 712-626 vote margin in 2014, despite the fact that the company maintained neutrality and granted organizers favorable conditions, such as access to the workforce. The UAW subsequently formed Local 42, a voluntary union, as a way to build support among employees. The maintenance workers who voted to join UAW in December represent about 10 percent of the 1,600 workers at the plant.

The union welcomed the NLRB’s affirmation of the vote, saying that it fell within the bounds of recognizing separate units of workers within the same company.

"We’re glad to see the decision upheld and we look forward to meeting Volkswagen at the collective bargaining table in the near future," Local 42 president Mike Cantrell said in an April 13 release.

The UAW is once again turning to the NLRB to override the company. On Monday the union filed a complaint with the agency demanding that it pursue an unfair labor practice charge against VW. UAW Treasurer Gary Casteel, who spearheaded the failed 2014 campaign, said that the company is in violation of federal labor law and using the Appeals Court system as a "stall tactic."

"We reject the company’s claim that recognizing and bargaining with the skilled-trades employees would somehow splinter the workforce in Chattanooga. Recognizing clearly identifiable employee units is common in the U.S.," Casteel said in a release. "If Volkswagen tries to force this matter into the federal court of appeals, we see it as a stall tactic that won’t work."

Wilson denies that the company engaged in any unfair labor practice, saying that the agency panel did not "fully evaluate" the validity of dividing skilled maintenance from production workers.

"Volkswagen respects the right of all of our employees to decide the question of union representation," Wilson said in an email. "We are disappointed that the NLRB declined to fully evaluate this important question. Therefore, Volkswagen will take the necessary steps to have this issue reviewed by a federal court of appeal."

The Obama-appointed NLRB has made strides to ease unionization by narrowing the number of potential voters in an election. The board overturned decades of precedent in 2011 to allow unions to organize micro-unions targeting specific employees within the same company. A federal appeals court upheld that decision in 2013.

Published under: Unions