Some Volkswagen workers confused by UAW announcement
The announcement has left many confused about the legality of opening a local union chapter months after the majority of Volkswagen workers voted "no" for UAW representation.
All eyes are on Chattanooga and how this union situation will play out. Labor attorneys say the result will impact not just local auto workers, but other unions throughout the country that are keeping a close watch.
Thursday's announcement came as a surprise to many who at last word from the UAW heard they wouldn't be back in the Scenic City until next year.
"This whole situation has been unusual and extraordinary and fascinating for those who follow labor law," local labor attorney Dan Gilmore said.
Gilmore doesn't have a dog in the fight, but was just as surprised as many Volkswagen workers to hear UAW's plan to open a local chapter after being voted down in February.
"My initial reaction is what are they thinking of now," Volkswagen employee Mike Burton said.
Mike Burton was in the majority as 712 Volkswagen employees voted "no" to UAW representation just five months ago.
"Why are they here," Burton said.
But some 626 supporters hoped for a return.
"I hope we'll have an opportunity again to join a union," Volkswagen worker Justin King told Channel 3 after the February vote.
They just weren't sure they'd get that second chance so soon.
"The UAW agreed not to organize within a year. that's apparently going on now. That's simply an agreement for Volkswagen to enforce," Gilmore said.
And if Volkswagen does not enforce it, the anti-union employees must tolerate more pro-union messages again.
Volkswagen Chattanooga released this statement saying the establishment of a union local "is a matter for the trade union concerned. There is no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter."
The UAW still needs the majority of workers to say they want representation for the company to get involved.
"At this point they have to sign an authorization card indicating their interest in being represented by union. They don't join the union without the company itself recognizing the interest as well as the whole process being certified by the National Labor Relations Board," Gilmore said.
Meanwhile, everyone's anxiously awaiting news on if Volkswagen will further invest in Chattanooga by expanding its plant to manufacture a new SUV. State leaders say they're feeling confident.
"I understand VW is going to make an announcement next week. Very good news and I want to make sure everybody knows the UAW had nothing to do at all with what's going to be announced next week," Burton said.
Volkswagen Chattanooga is the only major VW plant in the world that does not operate with a works council. The difference in the U.S. is that federal law requires union representation for a works council to exist.
Some state leaders, including Senator Bob Corker, are considering pushing for a change to that law but that's yet to happen. So, it's still possible for the UAW to be involved in one here.
Works councils and unions both represent rank-and-file workers, but differ slightly in that unions require dues to be paid and are independent of the business. Works councils are considered part of the business.