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UAW Voted Out of VW Chattanooga, But Works Council Still Sought

Workers at the Volkswagen auto assembly plant in Chattanooga have rejected representation from the United Auto Workers.  The vote was a disappointment for the UAW, which lost by a narrow margin.  About 1,300 workers voted, and anti-union forces won by only 86 votes. UAW President Bob King said that to lose by such a close margin is very difficult.

UAW President Bob King and Dennis Williams, secretary treasurer for the UAW, speak at a press conference after learning the UAW's bid to represent VW Chattanooga was rejected.

"Obviously, we’re deeply disappointed," King said after results were announced.

King added that the UAW is outraged by what he calls outside interference in the election.  Throughout the three-day election, Republican politicians had urged workers to vote “no,” claiming future financial incentives for the plant and opportunities for new production might hinge on this vote.

“Needless to say, I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future,” said Corker in a media release.

Frank Fischer, CEO and Chairman of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said Volkswagen will respect the decision of the majority.  Volkswagen had favored creating a European-style works council at the plant.  That’s an alternative to labor unions.  In spite of this defeat, Fischer says it’s still a possibility.

"Our employees have not made the decision that they are against a work council," Fischer said.

Standing outside the plant, Mike Burton agreed.  Burton is a quality paint inspector at the plant, and he’s been a leader among workers opposing the UAW.  He created a Web site, www.no2uaw.com, and he says he’s ecstatic that the UAW lost.  However, he says, an American works council could happen, led by employees at the plant.

"We have much more research to do, to make it a viable offer," Burton said.

For a works council to be established at Volkswagen Chattanooga, labor law requires some kind of union.  Burton heads a group trying to establish a locally-led union at the plant.  So the union push may continue—just without the UAW.

*Edited 2/15/14 to correct election margin numbers.