Amidst ongoing commotion, confusion and emotion about the United Auto Workers' efforts to organize the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, a top local official said the dialogue on the issue has just begun and that it may take months to reach an agreement.
Head of human relations at VW Chattanooga Sebastian Patta told Reuters Tuesday that talks with the UAW about establishing a German-style works council will likely continue into next year.
Last week, UAW officials said that they have support for union representation from the majority of local Volkswagen workers.
In another recent development, Rep. Mike Turner, head of the Democratic caucus in the Tennessee House, said that Gov. Bill Haslam has promised Volkswagen additional incentives to expand if they keep away from the UAW, according to Reuters.
Haslam told Bloomberg Businessweek that the incentives are not contingent on VW rejecting the union.
And this week, a VW executive said that Chattanooga is a front-runner in the competition of where the new SUV will be built.
There had been some worry that Volkswagen AG leaders wouldn't let Chattanooga expand if it didn't get onboard with the German-style works council.
But Bill Visnic, senior analyst with online automotive and shopping outlet Edmunds.com, said he doubts that has anything to do with the decision.
VW leaders don't plan to immediately recognize the cards that UAW leaders said they have in support of the works council, according to the Reuters article.
Nooga.com has talked to several hourly Volkswagen employees, who spoke frankly about the situation on the condition of anonymity.
This week, VW officials repeated their neutral stance to employees, characterizing the UAW situation as discussions, not negotiations, according to employees.
UAW President Bob King told the Detroit Free Press that, in addition to signing the typical union cards, VW employees have also signed a statement saying they are interested in joining VW's Global Works Council to manage day-to-day personnel issues.
Click here for more background on the issue.
Nooga.com has been unable to reach the region's UAW spokesman, Gary Castell, and another UAW spokesperson referred Nooga.com to other news articles for more information on the topic. Click here, here and here to read those articles.
After the UAW announcement that they have support from a majority of workers, some people—including local workers and leaders from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce—said a secret ballot vote is the only fair way to determine if the workers really want UAW representation.
Last week, Don Jackson, former president of manufacturing for Volkswagen Chattanooga, questioned whether UAW leaders actually have the signatures they claim to.
And this week, some employees questioned the tactics the UAW used to get the cards signed.
It's possible that some of the cards were signed by temporary employees or that workers were misled about what they were signing.
Jackson said he’s heard from workers that some are worried that someone else signed their name on a card.
A couple of employees stopped short of calling the tactics bribery but said that people in support of the UAW gave away tickets to Lake Winnepesaukah—not necessarily in exchange for signing a card, but possibly to leave a positive impression and to gain loyalty or new members.
One hourly Volkswagen employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that some co-workers told him that pro-UAW employees said cards had to be signed just to get more information on the issue.
He said that some people didn't understand what signing the card meant, exactly.
And some employees have been working to get their cards back, an employee said.
Although VW leaders have defined the connection with UAW as "dialogue," not negotiations, leaders with the National Right to Work Foundation said they are looking into the possibility of taking legal action against Volkswagen and the UAW.
"[Foundation staff attorneys] are studying possible legal actions, including challenges to the card signings based on coercion from union organizers and Volkswagen, and the threats and misrepresentations that have infested the card collection process," Patrick Semmens, vice president for public information with the organization, said via email.
He also called the reported negotiations between the UAW and VW officials "deeply troubling."
One VW employee said the UAW has a dirty history and reputation and that he doesn't want this situation to hurt the job he loves.
"The thing that bothers me the most—VW is the best job I've ever had," he said. "It's the best thing that's ever happened to me and my family and most of the people that work there. When I took the job, I agreed to what they offered. They've held up their end of the bargain. Like all manufacturing plants, there are some changes [needed]. But that's going to happen. We've only been here three years."
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