UAW eyeing “multiple paths” to collective bargaining at VW

Authored By chloe.morrison

United Auto Workers Local 42 leaders have been getting questions about whether the group is working to represent a smaller segment of employees at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant.

And although Local 42 officials had no detailed answer on that Monday, they did say they are open to all options and still want collective bargaining rights. 

“Looking ahead, there are multiple paths toward collective bargaining,” UAW Local 42 President Mike Cantrell said in a prepared statement. “All options have been and remain on the table. Local 42 will continue exploring options under federal law and in line with Volkswagen’s global business practices.”

It’s possible that Local 42 could have a vote only among a certain group of plant employees, such as skilled trades and maintenance workers. It’s also possible that the company could recognize just that group.

If the group got approved for representation through either method, that would mean just that group of workers would get bargaining rights under the National Labor Relations Act. 

Cantrell said his group’s objective is to get collective bargaining rights “for the purpose of reaching a multiyear contract between the company and employees.”

Organizing one group of workers is a strategy to gain ground at the plant. The idea is that if one group organizes and reaps positive results, that will spread to other workers.

The strategy could also backfire and alienate those outside the group who have supported Local 42. 

In February, UAW officials said they had gained support from at least 45 percent of hourly Volkswagen employees, according to archives. 

Cantrell reasserted that claim on Monday. 

“The union has had majority support inside the plant for more than two years and we are communicating with Volkswagen on matters of concern to employees, including shift scheduling, workplace safety and other issues,” he said.

But in February 2014, the majority of VW’s hourly employees opted against UAW representation with a 712-626 vote.

Earlier this year, both UAW Local 42 and rival group American Council of Employees said they gained enough support to have  benefits under the company’s employee engagement policy. (Click here for more on that and here to read the entire employee engagement policy, which outlines specific benefits.)

Under the policy’s benefits, the groups get face time with Volkswagen officials and other benefits. And both groups are still meeting with VW officials under this policy. 

But VW’s policy doesn’t allow for negotiation of collective bargaining rights. Any group who wants collective bargaining rights must comply with the National Labor Relations Act and Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, according to VW’s policy.