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Steve Cochran’s Report From Wolfsburg

I was privileged to represent our plant at a recent meeting of the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council held December 5-8 in Wolfsburg, Germany. The Works Council is composed of representatives from plants around the world and I provided them an update on the situation at our plant, and particularly about Volkswagen’s broken promises.

I expressed concern about the effect the diesel scandal has had on U.S. sales and the challenge we face in the launch of the Atlas, since we don’t have true co-determination. Some people wanted to believe that the COE policy is a workable substitute, but I pointed out how limited and unreliable that policy is. And Volkswagen’s failure to recognize Local 42 as our representative – as they promised two years ago – means the COE has no teeth.

Coincidentally, the presentation I made to the Global Works Council came exactly one year after maintenance voted by a big margin for Local 42 and collective bargaining. It’s now been 4 months since the NLRB ruled the company is violating the labor law by their failure to begin collective bargaining. I pointed out that Volkswagen’s treatment of employees in Chattanooga has had consequences. When I told them that we had counted 335 production and maintenance employees who have left the company in the last two years, some people didn’t believe me. But I showed them the list of names that Local 42 was aware of who have left, so maybe someone will check it out.

I told them my biggest concern was for the launch of the Atlas, since it is so important to the future of our plant. I said that our input about job design or suggestions about production processes are not taken seriously. Most importantly, I ended by making an open offer to the company to sit down anytime and anywhere to resolve these problems.

The presentation was very well received and many people came up to me and thanked me for the information. Sometimes in these big formal meetings, people get uncomfortable with bad news. But I know you feel like I do, that you can’t fix a problem unless you’re honest about it. I had conversations and shared meals with Volkswagen workers from England, South Africa, Brazil and Sweden, to name the countries I can remember. All of them wanted me to tell you that they support us getting collective bargaining. They promised to communicate with us and I assured them that we will never stop until we get a contract. See photos from the trip here.

 

Steve Cochran, Acting President, UAW Local 42