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United Auto Workers Representation Vote Set for Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant

Copyright Volkswagen of America, Inc..

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of the United Auto Workers’ bid for a second election at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen assembly plant.

At an NLRB hearing earlier this month, Volkswagen had opposed the new vote, but the NLRB hasset the new election for Dec. 3 and 4.  Last year, the UAW had sought to represent the plant's entire blue-collar workforce in a larger election, but lost 712-626.

Volkswagen opposed the bid for a new election because it would involve only the plant’s maintenance workers,who are about 11% of the plant’s blue collar workforce.  At the hearing, VW’s attorney argued that this relatively small group was not distinct enough from other plant workers to warrant representation as a separate unit.

However, in his decision, NLRB Regional Director Claude T. Harrell wrote that the plant’s maintenance workers “share a unique function” and “share a community of interest under the Board’s traditional criteria…. and perform distinct functions –they all perform preventative maintenance and repairs.”

Volkswagen could appeal the decision.

“The company is reviewing the content of the Regional Director’s decision and is considering its options,” VW spokesman Scott Wilson wrote in an email.

At the hearing, VW’s attorneys had argued that if a new UAW vote were to happen, it should involve all the plant’s blue-collar employees, just as the last one did, rather than this small unit of maintenance workers alone.

The hearing came on the heels of the so-called Dieselgate scandal, in which Volkswagen admitted rigging millions of cars to cheat emissions tests.

In a prepared statement about the NLRB decision, Gary Casteel, UAW secretary-treasurer and director of the union’s Transnational Department, referenced the scandal.

“It’s unfortunate that, in the middle of Volkswagen’s widening emissions scandal, we had to spend weeks debating workers’ rights that clearly are protected under federal law,” Casteel said.  “Looking ahead, our hope is that the company now will recommit to the values that made Volkswagen a great brand — environmental sustainability and true co-determination between management and employees.”

Casteel said he has no doubt the company can make a comeback.

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