Volkswagen Cancels UAW Unionization Talks

Over the past couple of years, German Automaker Volkswagen had been in talks with the United Auto Workers to organize the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. However, Volkswagen has recently reversed course on this decision.

The main reason for the sudden reversal was a scandal late last year involving Diesel Volkswagens which had software programming to “cheat” emissions testers, when in reality the vehicles were spewing more pollutants than legally allowed. 600,000 cars were so equipped, forcing much of the senior management within the company to step down as a result of lost profits, sales, and an investigation by the federal government. The new senior management is not as open to the Union, and as a result, Volkswagen is now refusing to cooperate with the UAW. In fact, the automaker is now appealing the UAW’s latest victory in federal court.

In December, a majority of plant maintenance staff voted in favor of unionization. However, Volkswagen is against this move, and thus is appealing the decision. VW wants to have its plant workers vote on representation as a single entity and not divided by profession. The plant employs 1,500 workers building the Passat Sedan.

The recent push back against the union comes as a surprise to many. Back in 2013, Volkswagen was proposing to unionize the Chattanooga plant. This was unusual for an automaker to seek out union representation in the south, a region known for being anti-union and for right-to-work laws. Volkswagen had long wanted to  be on good terms with the UAW, much like the labor-company relationship in their home country of Germany. VW held a plantwide vote on representation in 2014, which led to a loss for the UAW. UAW Local 42 was organized to keep fighting for the cause. However, with the recent scandal, loss of profit, and change in management, The UAW now has significant hurdles to jump to achieve the ultimate goal of unionizing the Chattanooga plant.

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A Volkswagen Passat at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga Plant.