One of the most contentious union elections of recent times was last February’s vote on whether to allow United Automobile Workers representation at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant. Tennessee’s Republican senator Bob Corker, who was once mayor of Chattanooga, was accused of interference in the vote when he said that Volkswagen had told him that if the union was voted down, the company would build its new mid-size SUV at the Tennessee plant. Nashville Scene reported in April that documents had come to light suggesting that Tennessee governor Bill Haslam had offered VW $300 million in incentives to build that SUV in Chattanooga, but only if the company would abandon its desire to create a “works council” at the plant. In the end, the unionization vote failed by a narrow margin.
Now, the New York Times is reporting that VW has announced a new policy that will allow labor groups, including the UAW, to represent the Tennessee workers. While this policy isn’t quite what the UAW wanted, which was to be the sole representative of VW’s labor force at the Chattanooga plant, the union is praising the change.
The New York Times says that VW has been under pressure from its German union, IG Metall, to recognize the UAW. Now, under the new policy, any labor group that has the support of at least 45 percent of the Chattanooga employees will be able to meet with the plant’s executive committee every two weeks. Any group with the support of at least 15 percent of employees will be able to have monthly meetings with VW’s human resource officials.