By Amanda Becker
(Reuters) – The United Auto Workers will form a local union in Tennessee to represent workers at a Chattanooga Volkswagen AG plant, The Tennessean newspaper reported on Thursday.
It is a preliminary step toward the UAW gaining a toehold among foreign automakers in the U.S. South, a region that has often been inhospitable to organized labor, after the union lost a February election at the Chattanooga plant.
The Tennessean, in Nashville, said that it was told by UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel that a formal announcement about establishing a voluntary union would be made later on Thursday.
The newspaper reported that Germany’s VW will not work with the local unit of the union until it has the support of a “substantial portion” of the Chattanooga plant’s employees.
“Just like anywhere else in the world, the establishment of a local organization is a matter for the trade union concerned,” VW spokesman Scott Neal Wilson said in statement to Reuters. “There is no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter.”
The February election that the UAW lost at VW Chattanooga by 712-626 was a major setback for the union. Its former president Bob King, whose term expired in June, had vowed to successfully bring the UAW into a foreign-owned Southern plant, saying that if the union was unable to do so, its future was in jeopardy.
The UAW had asked the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union elections and polices labor disputes, to invalidate the results of the February election and hold a new one.
The UAW said that VW workers were improperly influenced by anti-union statements made by Tennessee Republican politicians and outside interest groups in the days leading up to the election.
The UAW withdrew its legal challenge just hours before a hearing was slated to begin in April. Casteel told Reuters at the time that they were worried “objectionists” would delay the process and take the focus off Tennessee workers.
(The story has been refiled to remove extraneous ‘a’ from first paragraph before ‘The Tennessean’)
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Grant McCool)