Could new labor laws bring works council to Chattanooga VW plant - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Could new labor laws bring works council to Chattanooga VW plant?

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U.S. Senator Bob Corker is looking at new federal legislation that would allow the creation of labor boards at U.S. companies without union representation. Some state officials say such laws could benefit Chattanooga's VW plant.

The idea comes after workers voted down union representation in February and as Tennessee lawmakers continue to push for expansion at the plant.

As it stands now, Chattanooga's plant is one of the few VW plants in the world that does not operate with a works council, a model global VW leaders are used to operating under. Works councils are not allowed under U.S. law unless workers have union representation.

Corker says there may be a way to appease the company and its workers with new legislation.

"You know, there have been very very good meetings," said Sen. Corker, on a visit to Chattanooga.

Corker says the odds of bringing a new production line to Chattanooga's VW plant are looking good.

"I believe that we're going to be successful," he said.

But his attitude has not changed on union involvement being the key to expansion.

"I feel the same way about the VW expansion as I did during the time that the vote and all of that was occurring."

Corker says he is considering pushing for new labor laws that would allow U.S. companies to create labor boards or employee-involvement programs that give workers more of a voice in workplace issues.

"I'm sure that Volkswagen America would like to have this rectified in a legal way and the employees would like to have some voice that isn't tainted by company involvement," said VW employee, Mike Burton.

Burton voted against the UAW. But he echoes Governor Bill Haslam's thoughts, who recently said, "I think what you heard out of the vote down there is workers saying we want to have a works council, we're just not certain we want to be represented by the UAW."

"The employees of Volkswagen do want an employee-centered council that does not have the authority of Volkswagen involved with it and we're working on that," said Burton.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel tells Channel 3 unions offer better protection and the 'independent' works councils would still have employer influence, saying, "Workers that participate in these organizations inevitably fear retaliation if they disagree with the employer. That's not what true democracy is about."

In the meantime, workers like Burton are just watching and waiting for the announcement of a new line.

"We listen everyday. And hurry up!"

Corker says he has not made a commitment to presenting any legislation. It is just an idea at this point.

Corker and Governor Haslam say they continue to have productive talks with VW. They hope Chattanooga is part of its plan to invest $7 billion dollars in the North American market over the next five years.

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