Saturday, November 1, 2014 · 2:53 a.m.

Petition drive against UAW yields support from nearly 600 workers

VW AG Works Council chairman says talks with UAW will continue

Print
Many members of the community are wondering what's next for workers of the local Volkswagen plant after union leaders said they have enough support to organize the plant. (Photo: Staff)

Proponents on both sides of the Volkswagen unionization issue have continued pushing to get their way.

A few days after Volkswagen employees who oppose the United Auto Workers union turned in more than 500 petitions to local management, VW AG Works Council Chairman Bernd Osterloh said he will continue talking with UAW leaders.

Reuters reported Osterloh said that having a works council is important to producing a second vehicle in Chattanooga.

"We know how important that vehicle is for Chattanooga," Osterloh said, according to Reuters. 

Reuters reported Osterloh has input into production decisions, and that he said the UAW has agreed to give some of its rights to a works council. 

Bill Visnic, senior analyst with online automotive and shopping outlet Edmunds.com, recently said he doesn't think the decision about whether to work with the UAW will impact the final decision about making another product locally. 

And a group of VW workers who are organizing against the UAW, said they turned in petitions containing 563 signatures last week to management. 

The petition says that the employees "do not want to be represented by the United Auto Workers Union, do not want to join the UAW and do not support the UAW in any manner." 

VW employee Mike Burton has been gathering the petitions and said Tuesday that the most recent total of signatures gathered on the petition is at 593.

Employees will turn in more to management on Friday and will keep gathering petitions until they get 51 percent, he also said. 

Burton said he's been checking to make sure there are no duplicates and that VW management can further verify.

Only hourly employees who are employed by Volkswagen—not Aerotek employees, who are members of the variable workforce—have signed the petitions, he also said. 

There are about 1,560 hourly employees at the plant, a VW spokesman said. To get 51 percent of that number, Burton needs a total of 796 signatures. 

Currently, he has signatures from 38 percent of the hourly workforce. 

The petition drive came after leaders of the UAW said they had collected cards in support of the UAW from at least 51 percent of the plant's employees. 

Sebastian Patta, head of human relations at VW Chattanooga, told Reuters recently that talks with the UAW about establishing a German-style works council will likely continue into next year. 

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. 

The Volkswagen unionization issue is atypical. Some leaders have said it might be the chance to create an entirely new system—one that’s not in the vein of the UAW’s traditionally adversarial relationship with company leaders, one that’s a hybrid of German and American labor practices. 

Some VW leaders in Germany want the local plant to be a part of their works council system. It’s currently the only plant out of about 100 around the world that operates outside that system.

And the UAW has used that as a chance to represent local workers.

But, because the National Labor Relations Act forbids companies to have an internal union, organizing the local plant can’t be done exactly like the German model.

Some Volkswagen AG leaders want a works council because it would allow them to stay in touch with ideas and thoughts from Chattanooga workers and come to future deals about working conditions, Horst Neumann, VW's board member for human resources, said, according to Automotive News.

It’s unclear how a German-style labor system would work here. And because this is uncharted territory, the controversial and divisive issue has become convoluted.

Burton said that he thinks there is another option besides working with the UAW.

"I believe positive progress toward a form of [a] works council will happen as soon as it is obvious that [the] UAW is not the choice for the majority of hourly workers," he said via text. "For all practical purposes, that is the case now, but we will go the distance past 51 percent." 

Updated @ 2:12 p.m. to add clarification and correct an error.

Print
Reader's Recap
Daily news delivered directly to your inbox.   sign up
Press Esc to close