A Volkswagen employee in Chattanooga assembles a Passat sedan in a factory where workers signed cards favoring the union’s representation.
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NASHVILLE — A majority of workers at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Tennessee have signed cards favoring the union’s representation in creating a German-style works council at the plant, a top United Auto Workers official said Wednesday.
Gary Casteel, regional director for the UAW in Tennessee, said the cards include a statement about wanting to join VW’s Global Works Council and supporting cooperative and collaborative relations with the company. The cards are as legally binding as an election by the workers at the plant in Chattanooga, Mr. Casteel said.
A Volkswagen spokesman at the plant declined to comment.
Union representation at Volkswagen would signal a sea change in labor relations among foreign automakers, which have resisted unions at their plants in the South.
Foreign automakers have resisted the union because of what they consider added costs, burdensome work rules, and added layers of bureaucracy. The UAW has tried to get away from that, portraying itself as an ally of the automakers as they try to boost productivity.
“With input from the employees they can increase their through-put, quality, efficiency, health, and safety,” Mr. Casteel said.
Republican politicians in the region have expressed fears that a UAW foothold at Volkswagen could spread to other automakers and hurt future recruiting efforts.
Mr. Casteel said the union has not put a formal timeline on when it would seek official recognition at the plant.
“We’re interested in bringing a new labor model to the U.S.,” he said. “That’s the reason we continue to work on this.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) said Tuesday VW would become a “laughingstock” if it welcomed the UAW into its plant. He was instrumental in bringing the plant to Chattanooga when he was mayor.