Officials of the Chattanooga Area Central Labor Council held a "Rally for Working Families: Stand with VW Chattanooga Workers" on Monday afternoon at Miller Park.
The group said, "Working people from across the Chattanooga area will gather to lift up challenges faced in the workplace, celebrate our contributions to the city and hear from workers at VW who are calling for a fair voting process in their effort to unionize. We will have music, hear from labor & community leaders, and write letters of support for the workers at Volkswagen."
The United Auto Workers is seeking a vote on the local VW plant on full unionization. The vote has been delayed by the National Labor Relations Board.
The Labor Council said, "As Chattanooga’s economy booms, countless working families are being left behind. Far too many Chattanooga workers are experiencing the impact of stagnating wages, rising cost of living, full-time jobs being transferred to temp agencies, and lack of recourse for unsafe working conditions. In the face of these challenges, unions are a vehicle for workers to make their voices heard in a unified, principled and organized way. Fundamentally, unions embody our most basic democratic ideals bring workers together to have collective representation in the workplace.
"This form of democratic self-advocacy is one of the most effective means of ensuring a safe work environment and fair pay and has been the source of almost all workplace rights we enjoy today. The power of organized labor has given us the 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, paid vacation, sick time, holidays, lunch breaks, workers comp, military leave, parental leave, and so much more. Among full-time workers today, union members have an average income almost 20 percent higher than those without a union. We also enjoy more paid holidays and are more likely to have a defined benefit pension plan.
"Chattanooga has provided generous taxpayer incentives to VW, an extremely profitable company, and in return our communities want to see a commitment to fair treatment and a safe working environment for Chattanooga workers. This is not a radical request and should not be a political issue. VW workers across the globe are unionized and have gained the right to collectively bargain. We strongly believe that workers in our community deserve these same rights. We proudly stand with VW workers as they seek to exercise their legal right to choose whether to form a union. We call on our neighbors, co-workers, and elected officials to do the same."
The Chattanooga Area Central Labor Council is a regional body of the TN AFL-CIO, representing 17 local labor unions and over 5000 workers in the Chattanooga area.
5:00-5:30 - Gather and sign-making
5:30-5:40 - Welcome and opening
5:40-6:05 - Worker testimonies (cross-sector of workers from different fields)
6:05-6:15 - VW Chattanooga: a worker’s perspective
6:15-6:30 - Call to action and closing songs
6:30-7:00 - Music, rally & letter-writing in support of VW Chattanooga workers
Afterward, the anti-union Southern Momentum group released a statement "after a sparse crowd attended a pro-UAW rally at Miller Park in downtown Chattanooga."
“Cries of ‘Let them vote!’ fall on deaf ears when it was the UAW itself that asked to stifle the voices of Volkswagen workers by calling for recognition without a vote,” said Maury Nicely, a Chattanooga-based lawyer for Evans Harrison Hackett PLC, who represented Southern Momentum in 2014. “It was Volkswagen that protected the workers’ right to vote by ensuring labor laws were and continue to be followed.
“Regardless, the message sent tonight was clear: this community rejects the UAW and does not appreciate it and its cronies’ continued efforts to tear down a company that employs thousands of Chattanoogans. The union has spent years trying to build support in our city for its failed policies and yet again our community has made clear that it is not interested in becoming Detroit. After tonight, we are more confident than ever that if another vote is held, the UAW will once again be defeated.”
Southern Momentum first formed ahead of the 2014 election at the Volkswagen Chattanooga facility, which the UAW lost by a vote of 712 to 626. Workers looking for more information can email email@example.com.