The United Auto Workers on Thursday announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local union providing representation for employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.
UAW said, "Organized by Volkswagen employees, Local 42 offers workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace through the German automaker’s “works council” approach to employee engagement. Volkswagen’s business model is premised on employee representation, and Local 42 will represent any interested employees who join the local as members. No employees will be required to join."
“Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members,” said Dennis Williams, president of the UAW. “At that time, we said we would not give up on these committed and hard-working employees. We’re keeping our promise.”
Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer, who previously served as director of UAW Region 8 covering the South, said, “Local 42 will be run by, and for, the employees at Volkswagen.”
“We’ve had ongoing discussions with Volkswagen and have arrived at a consensus with the company,” Mr. Casteel said. “Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members’ union that represents those employees who join the local. As part of this consensus, the UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga.”
UAW officials renewed requests "for the state of Tennessee to extend the economic incentives necessary for Volkswagen to add a new product line at the Chattanooga plant," and said the union will continue advocating for increased investment.
“State officials have assured the public and the Volkswagen workforce that the decision on incentives for Chattanooga is not related to whether workers exercise their right to join a union,” said Ray Curry, the newly elected director of UAW Region 8. “We are gratified by those assurances, and the state was right to give them.”
UAW officials reiterated the reasoning for recently withdrawing objections to the February election at the plant, which they said "was tainted by outside interference." “As Volkswagen’s works council partner, the UAW’s role is to encourage job creation and promote job security so that Volkswagen employees can achieve the American dream and Chattanooga’s economy can prosper,” Mr. Casteel said. “We withdrew objections to end the controversy and put the focus where it belongs: obtaining the economic incentives necessary to ensure the growth of Volkswagen in Chattanooga and the addition of a new product line.”
Volkswagen employees formally announced Local 42 at an afternoon news conference, and immediately began communicating with fellow team members and with the plant’s management about next steps in advancing the works council partnership, it was stated.
“Being part of the creation of an American-style works council is a chance to do something new and different,” said Michael Cantrell, a Volkswagen paint technician. “This is about securing good jobs for the future of the plant and Chattanooga, and building lasting partnerships between management and team members.”
Additionally, Local 42 members pledged to get involved in the community — as UAW members have done in other communities across the country — to support charitable causes, youth programs and other local needs. “I see Local 42 as an opportunity to give back to Chattanooga and southeast Tennessee,” said Myra Montgomery, a quality inspector in the Volkswagen plant. “As our membership grows, people are going to see us very active in this community.”
Local 42 members declared workforce development to be a top priority, and said they would work with Volkswagen and the UAW to organize job-training opportunities so that employees can continually expand their skills as new technologies emerge and manufacturing processes change.
“Having access to the UAW’s expertise and support will keep the plant competitive and will keep our workforce on the cutting edge of productivity and quality,” said Jonathan Walden, who works in the Volkswagen plant’s paint department. “The members of Local 42 are ready to roll up our sleeves and focus on the future.”
The union, which narrowly lost an election at the facility in mid-February, is counting on a majority of employees joining the UAW.
Chattanooga Volkswagen officials said, "Just like anywhere else in the world, the establishment of a local organization is a matter for the trade union concerned. There is no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter."
Senator Bob Corker was among those fighting the earlier union try.
The UAW filed an appeal of the election results, saying there had been undue outside influence by Senator Corker and others.
But the appeal was later dropped after an administrative law judge from the National Labor Relations Board had been assigned to hear the case.