Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga, Tennessee have voted against an attempt at unionizing VW’s only U.S. assembly plant. The rejection serves as a blow to the United Auto Workers union, which is slated to commence negotiations with U.S. automakers soon.
The Tennessean reports the vote was close, 833 to 776, rejecting unionization. Today VW employs about 1,700 workers and 3,200 temporary workers at its Chattanooga plant.
“Our employees have spoken,” said Frank Fischer, president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga in an emailed statement. “Volkswagen will respect the decision of the majority.”
Reports suggest the bid failed this time amid concerns VW would temper its investment into the Chattanooga facility if it became unionized, risking the future of their jobs.
“We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with elected officials and business leaders in Tennessee,” Fischer said. “We chose Chattanooga to build our American production facility for a number of reasons, but in particular because of the quality of the workforce, the commitment of the business community, and the support and investments by state and local governments.
“As we have said throughout this process, our commitment to Tennessee is a long-term investment and central to the success of VW America. We look forward to working with the state of Tennessee, Hamilton County and the city of Chattanooga to support job creation, growth, and economic development today and into the future.”
The largest industrial union in the U.S., the United Auto Workers is based in Detroit. The group already represents about 5,000 employees in Tennessee, mostly at General Motors facilities in Spring Hill and Memphis.
A spokesperson for the union alleges the voting process in Chattanooga was manipulated.
“It was a very close vote,” Rothenberg said. “The workers really believed in what they were trying to do. Our labor laws are broken. Workers shouldn’t have to endure threats and intimidation in order to gain the right to collectively bargain. The law doesn’t serve workers, it caters to clever lawyers who are able to manipulate the NLRB process.”
The union is slated to begin contract negotiations with U.S. automakers next month. This failed vote at VW isn’t exactly setting the union up with a tailwind leading up to the talks.