Volkswagen workers in Tennessee want to unionize


Volkswagen workers in Tennessee took a major step toward becoming the first big auto factory in the South to unionize by asking federal authorities to hold a factory-wide vote on joining the United Auto Workers.
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ArrowRight Workers at the factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., filed a petition Monday with the National Labor Relations Board requesting an election to join the union, becoming the first of the UAW’s Southern targets to reach that milestone.
The UAW is targeting U.S. factories of a dozen companies, including Tesla, Honda and Toyota, in a push to expand its reach beyond its Midwestern stronghold.
For decades the UAW’s main autoworker members have come from Detroit’s Big Three manufacturers — Ford, General Motors and Jeep-maker Stellantis.
The union’s past efforts to push into factories in the South have failed.
AdvertisementThe ambitious effort comes after the UAW won record raises and other perks in new contracts with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in the fall.
The union is hoping those contracts will help broaden its appeal with autoworkers nationwide.
The UAW launched the campaign in the South late last year, aiming first to get workers to sign union cards stating their interest in joining the UAW.
The union said that once 70 percent of workers at a factory sign cards, the UAW would demand that the company recognize the union.
If that proves unsuccessful, the union said it would ask the NLRB to hold an election.
Share this article ShareUAW spokesman Nathan Janda declined to confirm Monday whether the union had hit that 70 percent threshold.
Volkswagen spokesman Michael Lowder said the UAW did not ask the company to recognize the union but did send VW a copy of the NLRB petition.
AdvertisementVW will “fully support an NLRB vote so every team member has a chance to vote in privacy in this important decision,” Lowder said.
“We respect our workers’ right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests,” he added.
NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado confirmed receipt of the petition and said more details on an election would be available in the coming weeks.
Past efforts to unionize Southern auto plants foundered in the face of local opposition from conservative politicians and skepticism from workers.
The union says worker attitudes toward unionization are becoming more favorable as younger and more diverse employees join the plants.
The card-signing effort continues at the other auto factories.
In January, the UAW said that 30 percent of workers at a Mercedes factory in Alabama had signed union cards.
Last month, workers at a Hyundai plant in Alabama also hit that milestone, the union said.

By requesting that federal authorities conduct a vote on the unionization of the entire Volkswagen factory, Tennessee workers made a significant stride toward becoming the first large auto factory in the South to unionize. Every weekend, receive a carefully chosen list of ten of our greatest stories delivered straight to your inbox. Workers at the ArrowRight factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. became the first target of the UAW in the South to accomplish that milestone when they submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, asking for a vote to join the union.

The UAW is going after U. S. factories belonging to twelve different companies, such as Tesla, Honda, and Toyota, with the aim of broadening its influence outside of its core Midwestern market.

The Big Three automakers in Detroit, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, the maker of Jeeps, have been the primary source of UAW autoworkers for many years. Previous attempts by the union to gain access to Southern factories have been unsuccessful.

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The bold endeavor follows the UAW’s victory in the fall of record raises and other benefits in new contracts with Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. With the help of those contracts, the union hopes to increase its appeal among autoworkers across the country.

In the South, the UAW started the campaign late last year with the goal of getting employees to sign union cards indicating their desire to become members of the union. According to the union, the UAW would demand that the business recognize the union once 70% of the workers at a factory sign cards. The union threatened to request an election from the NLRB if that didn’t work.

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On Monday, UAW spokesperson Nathan Janda declined to reaffirm if the union had reached the 70 percent mark.

The UAW sent VW a copy of the NLRB petition, but according to Volkswagen spokesman Michael Lowder, the company was not asked to recognize the union.


According to Lowder, VW will “fully support an NLRB vote so every team member has a chance to vote in privacy in this important decision.”. He went on, “We respect our workers’ right to a democratic process and the ability to choose who will represent their interests.”.

An election’s specifics will be disclosed in the upcoming weeks, according to NLRB spokesperson Kayla Blado, who also confirmed that the petition had been received.

Previous attempts to unionize Southern auto plants failed due to local opposition from conservative legislators and worker mistrust.

According to the union, when more youthful and diverse workers join the plants, employee sentiments regarding unionization are growing more positive.

At the other auto factories, the card-signing campaign is still in progress. 30% of employees at an Alabama Mercedes factory, according to the UAW, had signed union cards in January. According to the union, employees at an Alabama Hyundai plant also reached that milestone last month.

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