VW works council says will pursue labor representation at Tennessee plant

By Reuters
Sunday, February 16, 2014 9:47 EDT
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Volkswagen’s works council said it would press on with efforts to set up labor representation at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, after workers there voted against any such step involving the United Auto Workers union (UAW).

Employees at the plant, in a region traditionally hostile to organized labor, on Friday opted to reject representation by the union, whose membership has plummeted 75 percent since 1979 and now stands at just under 400,000.

“The outcome of the vote, however, does not change our goal of setting up a works council in Chattanooga,” Gunnar Kilian, secretary general of VW’s works council said in a statement on Sunday, adding workers continued to back the idea of labor representation at the plant.

Opposition to UAW involvement stemmed from concerns among many workers that a union would strain cordial relations with the company, which pays well by local and U.S. auto industry standards.

Some experts contend that VW needs a labor union in the United States to help set up a works council in Chattanooga, where it builds the mid-sized Passat Sedan.

“We were able to garner support from highly specialized U.S. labor law experts and we will start consulting with them in the next two weeks to define further steps,” Kilian said.

He added that he would travel to the United States with Frank Patta, secretary general of Volkswagen’s global works council, to hold talks.

The Tennessee decision is likely to reinforce the widely held notion that the UAW cannot make significant inroads in a region that historically has been against unions and where all foreign-owned vehicle assembly plants employ non-union workers.

(Additional reporting Andreas Cremer in Berlin and Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Anthony Barker)

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