United Auto Workers Local 42 has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking an election in hopes of representing maintenance employees at Volkswagen Chattanooga, and ultimately gaining collective bargaining powers.
“A key objective for our local union always has been, and still is, moving toward collective bargaining for the purpose of reaching a multiyear contract between Volkswagen and employees in Chattanooga,” Local 42 President Mike Cantrell said in a prepared statement. “We support our colleagues in the skilled trades as they move toward formal recognition of their unit.”
The petition seeks to have an election Nov. 5-6 and does not include all Volkswagen employees, only “full-time and regular part-time maintenance employees, including skilled members and skilled team members.”
According to a news release from Local 42, federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining. The NLRB describes collective bargaining as an effort between an employer and employees to “bargain in good faith about wages, hours, vacation time, insurance, safety practices and other subjects.”
Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson said in a prepared statement that company leaders have been meeting regularly both with Local 42 and its rival union, American Council of Employees, under VW’s community organization engagement policy.
That policy sets guidelines for engagement opportunities between VW and any labor organization whose membership includes a significant percentage of Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga.
“The community organization engagement policy has allowed us to have regular and productive meetings with both groups, and we look forward to continuing with this policy, as we are very pleased with the conversations taking place,” Wilson said.
He also said that the company is aware that Local 42 is seeking exclusive representation of maintenance workers.
UAW International Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said that the company’s engagement policy was a gesture that can’t replace “meaningful employee representation and codetermination with management.”
“The international union will provide ongoing technical assistance to the local union as it strives toward collective bargaining and its rightful seat on the Global Group Works Council,” he also said.
Casteel and Cantrell both said that the timing of the skilled trades filing with the NLRB is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
“We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining,” Cantrell said. “We have been considering this option for some time. All options have been, and will remain, on the table.”
The NLRB petition also noted that VW denied a UAW request made Aug. 6, 2015, for recognition as a bargaining representative, although it’s unclear if that request was regarding recognition of all employees or just maintenance workers.
Click here to read what UAW officials said two days before that request was denied.
Updated @ 2:24 p.m. on 10/23/15.