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  • workers unionizing at VW in Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Originally posted by AP_News

    Tennessee Volkswagen employees overwhelmingly vote to join United Auto Workers union

    Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the United Auto Workers union. During a watch party, employees said they were emboldened by the union’s successful confrontation with Detroit’s major automakers last year.

    by Tom Krisher and Kristin M. Hall
    Updated 1:13 PM EDT, April 20, 2024

    CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Employees at a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, overwhelmingly voted to join the United Auto Workers union Friday in a historic first test of the UAW’s renewed effort to organize nonunion factories.

    The union wound up getting 2,628 votes, or 73% of the ballots cast, compared with only 985 who voted no in an election run by the National Labor Relations Board.

    Both sides have five business days to file objections to the election, the NLRB said. If there are none, the election will be certified and VW and the union must “begin bargaining in good faith.”

    President Joe Biden, who backed the UAW and won its endorsement, said the union’s win follows major union gains across the country including actors, port workers, Teamsters members, writers and health care workers.

    “Together, these union wins have helped raise wages and demonstrate once again that the middle-class built America and that unions are still building and expanding the middle class for all workers,” he said in a statement late Friday.

    Twice in recent years, workers at the Chattanooga plant have rejected union membership in plantwide votes. Most recently, they handed the UAW a narrow defeat in 2019 as federal prosecutors were breaking up a bribery-and-embezzlement scandal at the union.

    But this time, they voted convincingly for the UAW, which is operating under new leadership directly elected by members for the first time and basking in a successful confrontation with Detroit’s major automakers.

    The union’s pugnacious new president, Shawn Fain, was elected on a platform of cleaning up after the scandal and turning more confrontational with automakers. An emboldened Fain, backed by Biden, led the union in a series of strikes last fall against Detroit’s automakers that resulted in lucrative new contracts.

    The new contracts raised union wages by a substantial one-third, arming Fain and his organizers with enticing new offers to present to workers at Volkswagen and other companies.

    Next up for a union vote are workers at Mercedes factories near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who will vote on UAW representation in May.

    Fain said he was not surprised by the size of the union’s win Friday after the two previous losses.

    “I think it’s the reality of where we are and the times that we’re in,” he said Friday night. “Workers are fed up in being left behind.”

    The win, he said, will help the growing unionization effort in the rest of the country.

    “This gives workers everywhere else the indication that it’s OK,” Fain said. “All we’ve heard for years is we can’t win here, you can’t do this in the South, and you can.”

    Worker Vicky Holloway of Chattanooga was among dozens of cheering workers celebrating at an electrical workers union hall near the VW plant. She said the overwhelming vote for the union came this time because her colleagues realized they could have better benefits and a voice in the workplace.

    “Right now we have no say,” said Holloway, who has worked at the plant for 13 years and was there for the union’s previous losses. “It’s like our opinions don’t matter.”

    In a statement, Volkswagen thanked workers for voting and said 83.5% of the 4,300 production workers cast ballots in the election.

    Six Southern governors, including Tennessee’s Bill Lee, warned the workers in a joint statement this week that joining the UAW could cost them their jobs and threaten the region’s economic progress.

    But the overwhelming win is a warning to nonunion manufacturers, said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who studies the union.

    “This is going to send a powerful message to all of those companies that the UAW is knocking at the door, and if they want to remain nonunion, they’ve got to step up their game,” Masters said.

    He expects other nonunion automakers to become more aggressive at the plants, and that anti-union politicians will step up their efforts to fight the union.

    Shortly after the Detroit contracts were ratified, Volkswagen and other nonunion companies handed their workers big pay raises.

    Last fall, Volkswagen raised production worker pay by 11%, lifting top base wages to $32.40 per hour, or just over $67,000 per year. VW said its pay exceeds the median household income for the Chattanooga area, which was $54,480 last May, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

    But under the UAW contracts, top production workers at GM, for instance, now earn $36 an hour, or about $75,000 a year excluding benefits and profit sharing. By the end of the contract in 2028, top-scale GM workers would make over $89,000.

    The VW plant will be the first the UAW has represented at a foreign-owned automaking plant in the South. It will not, however, be the first union auto assembly plant in the South. The UAW represents workers at two Ford assembly plants in Kentucky and two GM factories in Tennessee and Texas, as well as some heavy-truck manufacturing plants.

    Also, more than three decades ago, the UAW was at a Volkswagen factory in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh. VW closed the plant that made small cars in the late 1980s.

    Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press journalist Chris Megerian contributed from Washington.
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  • #2
    Tennessee is a "right to work" state. Below is an excerpt from a FindLaw article on the subject.

    Originally posted by FindLaw

    Tennessee Right to Work Laws

    Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016

    Legally Reviewed

    Many states, including Tennessee, have so-called right to work laws that prohibit the use of union membership status as a condition for getting or keeping a job. Employees in states without right to work laws are generally required to join the union if their workplace is part of a collective bargaining agreement, but still have the option of opting out. Tennessee's right to work law is fairly straightforward, summarized in the following statutory language:

    "It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or association of any kind to deny or attempt to deny employment to any person by reason of the person's membership in, affiliation with, resignation from, or refusal to join or affiliate with any labor union or employee organization of any kind."

    Below is a basic summary of Tennessee law with respect to union membership...
    (here is a link to the article)
    As mentioned above, workers in Tennessee are not required to join the union, and are not required to pay union dues. However, regardless state law, federal law requires unions to provide fair representation, not only for members in good standing, but also for non-members and members who are not in good standing (eg in arrears on dues payments), which can make membership and dues payments a more difficult sell.

    Originally posted by NLRB

    Right to fair representation

    You have a right to be represented by your union fairly, in good faith, and without discrimination.

    Your union has the duty to represent all employees - whether members of the union or not — fairly, in good faith, and without discrimination. This duty applies to virtually every action that a union may take in dealing with an employer as your representative, including collective bargaining, handling grievances, and operating exclusive hiring halls. For example, a union which represents you cannot refuse to process a grievance because you have criticized union officials or because you are not a member of the union. But the duty does not ordinarily apply to rights a worker can enforce independently - such as filing a workers' compensation claim - or to internal union affairs - such as the union's right to discipline members for violating its own rules. mopnlrb/righ...representation
    Last edited by JRT; 23 Apr 24,, 14:58.


    • #3
      An interesting factoid...this was the only VW across the globe NOT with union representation before this vote.

      Next month is a vote for unionship at a Mercedes plant in Alabama. Intrigued to see how that goes. What was once unthinkable....unions in the South...has been shifting in the wake of COVID as we have seen stronger workers feeling their oats.

      Hardly a wave but a start!
      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
      Mark Twain