According to the United Auto Workers president, the union would like Volkswagen AG to recognize them voluntarily as the best choice to represent the automaker’s workers at its Tennessee plant.
Historically, the U.S. South has been hostile to unions and UAW president Bob King has been trying to organize foreign-owned, U.S.-based auto plants to bolster a union membership that has shrunk since its peak in the late 1970s.
VW executives said last week in a letter to employees at the Chattanooga plant they were in talks with the UAW about the union’s bid to represent workers. If VW simply recognized UAW as their representatives, it would eliminate the need for a more formal and divisive vote, and allow the union and VW to represent the workers using an “innovative model” that would be a milestone in the union’s long-running effort to organize foreign-owned auto plants.
“An election process is more divisive,” King said in an interview, referring to outside nonunion groups that would likely pit workers against each other. “I don’t think that’s in Volkswagen’s best interests. I don’t think that in the best interests of Tennessee. If they want to…recognize us based on majority, I think that is the quickest, most effective way,” he added.
The UAW president also specified that the union has taken a similar approach with hundreds of other companies in the United States. He also said he received cards signed by a majority of the plant’s 2,500 workers saying they want UAW representation. He declined to give the exact percentage, saying the number was still rising.
VW executives in the United States have said the workers will have the final decision on whether to choose the UAW, but they have repeatedly focused on the formal voting process. Don Jackson, an industry consultant who was VW’s U.S. manufacturing chief until last June, said he expects VW would only accept the union after a confidential ballot vote by the Tennessee plant’s workers.