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Labor Board Again Orders VW To Negotiate

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In a unanimous decision, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered Volkswagen to come to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with Chattanooga skilled trades employees represented by UAW Local 42. For nine months, since December 2015, the company has attempted to ignore its obligation to negotiate. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said “this unanimous decision makes it clear that the company has been operating in violation of federal law by refusing to come to the bargaining table.”

Skilled trades member Steve Cochran, who is Vice President of Local 42, expressed hope that the company would comply with the new order. “Together, Volkswagen and Local 42 can negotiate an agreement that works for all parties and keeps the plant moving forward,” he said.

Volkswagen appealed the vote to the NLRB last December, after employees voted by more than 70% for Local 42. The NLRB dismissed that appeal in March but VW still refused to negotiate. Local 42 filed charges over the company’s failure to bargain, as required by U.S. labor law. This new decision is in response to those charges, and makes clear that our 2015 election was proper and obligates Volkswagen to negotiate a contract with Local 42.

IG Metall, the union representing all Volkswagen workers at its plants in Germany, called on the company to act. “IG Metall President Joerg Hofmann is calling for VW to no longer act contrary to American labor law, and to seek talks with UAW without delay,” the union said in a statement.

Congress to Volkswagen: Abide by U.S. Law!

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8/12/2016: In a July 9 letter to CEO Christian Koch and HR Director Sebastian Patta, 61 members of Congress voiced their support for all parties in Chattanooga bargaining in good faith, and called on Volkswagen to respect the rights of maintenance employees who elected UAW Local 42. (see the letter here)

The elected representatives voiced their concern that Volkswagen has adopted a tactic of delay to frustrate the vote of the employees, who chose the union by more than 70%. “In our opinion”, they said “we believe that when labor and management bargain in good faith, the best outcomes are realized for all parties.”

The members of Congress noted the serious nature of the issues involved and “the potential impact they could have on relations between Germany and the United States.” They asked Mr. Koch and Mr. Patta to respond to them on each of the concerns they raised. As of August 12, there was no response.

Global Union Federation United Behind Local 42

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8/12/2016: Volkswagen workers around the world are united behind UAW Local 42. IndustriALL, the federation of auto worker unions from across the globe, called out Volkswagen for ignoring the democratic vote of maintenance employees here in Chattanooga. They took the unprecedented step of filing a formal complaint (see letter here)  against Volkswagen, under the Declaration on Social Rights and Industrial Relationships, which VW signed with IndustriALL and the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council in 2002. Volkswagen has never had a complaint filed against it in its history.

The IndustriALL action came after UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel described the deceptive behavior of Volkswagen in opposing the December 2015 vote of maintenance workers. “The tricks and tactics in the south of the U.S. won’t remain there,” he said. “They will be coming to you soon.” The delegates noted that Volkswagen had hired a high-dollar “union avoidance” law firm to represent them and attempt to keep the maintenance employees tied up in court.

Volkswagen says they object to the separate vote for maintenance employees because it would “fracture” the workforce. But in a series of appeals court decisions from all across the U.S., separate bargaining units are found to be perfectly legal and the position taken by VW has been rejected.

NLRB Files Complaint Against Volkswagen

4/27/2016: The National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday filed an unfair labor practices complaint against Volkswagen for not bargaining with a portion of plant workers at its Tennessee plant represented by the United Auto Workers union.

Under board procedure, employers must formally refuse to recognize a union certified by the NLRB in order to bring the case to U.S. appeals courts. As the board earlier this month said Volkswagen workers could join the UAW, the agency will likely soon rule against Volkswagen, allowing the company to appeal.

Check out the full story in Reuters.

UAW Statement on Volkswagen Violating Federal Law

4/25/2016: Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the international union’s Transnational Department, today released the following statement in response to Volkswagen’s decision to violate federal law and fight a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB):

“Today, the UAW asked the NLRB to issue an unfair labor practice complaint against Volkswagen Group of America. The facts are: On April 13, the NLRB issued a clear decision supporting efforts among Volkswagen skilled-trades employees to secure meaningful representation in Chattanooga. By choosing to fight the NLRB, Volkswagen is in clear violation of federal law. We are asking the NLRB to order the company to immediately abide by federal law and come to the bargaining table with its employees.

“If Volkswagen tries to force this matter into the federal court of appeals, we see it as a stall tactic that won’t work. The appeals court with jurisdiction over the Chattanooga plant already has ruled that clearly identifiable employee units within a workforce, such as the skilled-trades unit at Volkswagen, can seek recognition in order to achieve collective bargaining.

“We reject the company’s claim that recognizing and bargaining with the skilled-trades employees would somehow splinter the workforce in Chattanooga. Recognizing clearly identifiable employee units is common in the U.S. Furthermore, Volkswagen plants all over the world — including in countries such as Italy, Russia and Spain — recognize multiple unions that represent portions of a workforce.

“The reality is: Our UAW local union already represents a majority of the blue-collar workforce in Chattanooga. Volkswagen knows this because the company has verified our substantial membership level. If Volkswagen wants meaningful employee representation, the company is free to recognize the local union as the representative of its members, as it committed to do previously. It is unacceptable that the Chattanooga plant is the only facility not represented on the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, the influential body of employee leaders from around the world.

“At a time when Volkswagen already has run afoul of the federal and state governments in the emissions-cheating scandal, we’re disappointed that the company now is choosing to thumb its nose at the federal government over U.S. labor law. At the end of the day, the employees are the ones being cheated by Volkswagen’s actions.”

IG Metall Urges Volkswagen to Come to the Bargaining Table

4/14/2016: The German trade union IG Metall today released the following statement after the National Labor Relations Board denied Volkswagen’s request to review the election in which skilled-trades employees voted to designate UAW Local 42 as their bargaining representative:

“NLRB confirmed that the union election of December 2015 at the VW plant in Chattanooga was legitimate. At that time the skilled-trades employees voted with a great majority for a union representation. With immediate effect, UAW can negotiate a collective agreement for the skilled-trades employees at VW in Chattanooga. Jörg Hofmann, President of IG Metall, declared: ‘Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga should have the same rights as other Volkswagen team members around the world. It is in Volkswagen’s own interest to accept the NLRB decision and not to contest it once again.'”

UAW Applauds NLRB Decision, Asks Volkswagen to Respect Federal Government’s Order

4/13/2016: Working men and women at Volkswagen today won an important victory following an order by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supporting efforts among skilled-trades employees to secure meaningful employee representation.

A three-member NLRB panel denied Volkswagen’s request for the agency to review a December 2015 election in which skilled-trades employees in Chattanooga voted overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their representative for the purpose of collective bargaining. Today’s order, in effect, upholds the results of the election, which the NLRB supervised.

Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for achieving collective bargaining. In its order, the NLRB noted that employees in the skilled-trades unit at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant are “readily identifiable as a group” and that Volkswagen failed to demonstrate otherwise.

Local union members applauded the order. “The NLRB supervised a fair election at the plant and then promptly certified the results,” said Mike Cantrell, president of UAW Local 42. “We’re glad to see the decision upheld and we look forward to meeting Volkswagen at the collective bargaining table in the near future.”

Collective bargaining is a common practice between employees and employers in the U.S. The NLRB describes collective bargaining as an effort between an employer and employees to “bargain in good faith about wages, hours, vacation time, insurance, safety practices and other subjects.”

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the International union’s Transnational Department, said Volkswagen’s refusal to come to the bargaining table since the December election has been a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

“With today’s order, the NLRB has clearly stated that it views the skilled-trades election in Chattanooga as a legal and appropriate step toward meaningful employee representation,” Casteel said. “We hope Volkswagen’s new management team will accept the government’s decision and refocus on the core values that made it a successful brand — environmental sustainability and meaningful employee representation.”

Casteel added: “We call on Volkswagen to immediately move forward with UAW Local 42, in the German spirit of co-determination.”

UAW Local 42 has strong support among blue-collar workers in the Chattanooga plant — the only Volkswagen facility in the world that remains unrepresented on the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, the influential body of employee leaders from around the world. In 2014, the Global Group Works Council and IG Metall, the powerful German trade union, signed a letter stating their desire for Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant to be a “UAW-represented facility.”

UAW officials reiterated that the timing of the skilled trades election is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. UAW Local 42 members asked Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled trades employees in August 2015 — more than a month before the emissions scandal was revealed.

Looking ahead, Cantrell said UAW Local 42 will communicate with Volkswagen leaders — in the U.S. and Germany — about initiating collective bargaining for the skilled trades employees at the earliest possible date.

TIMELINE: UAW LOCAL 42

August 2015: Members of UAW Local 42 ask Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled-trades employees at the Chattanooga plant. The company declines the request.

October 2015: UAW Local 42 files paperwork with the NLRB seeking a representation election for employees in the skilled-trades unit.

November 2015: The NLRB rules in favor of UAW Local 42 and orders an election for 160 skilled- trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, rejecting an attempt by the company to block the election.

December 2015: Skilled-trades employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga vote overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their bargaining representative. The NLRB confirms that 71 percent of employees voting favored recognition for UAW Local 42. Volkswagen refuses to recognize UAW Local 42 or enter into collective bargaining, and asks the NLRB for a review of the election.

February 2016: UAW Local 42 files charges with the NLRB stipulating that Volkswagen is violating the National Labor Relations Act and has “unlawfully continued to refuse to bargain.”

April 2016: The NLRB denies Volkswagen’s request for a review of the December election, in effect, upholding the election and its results.

AFL-CIO Releases Statement on Volkswagen

2/23/2016: The Executive Council of the AFL-CIO, the federation of U.S. unions, today released the following statement on Volkswagen’s refusal to bargain with UAW Local 42 following a fair election in December 2015:

“The diesel emissions scandal at Volkswagen has called into question the principles the company has touted: environmental protection, sustainability and social responsibility. The damage done by the deception perpetrated on its customers will take a long time to heal.

“Volkswagen workers also are feeling deceived, not so much by the emissions cheating, but by the company’s behavior at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant. After the tainted February 2014 representation election, where anti-union politicians and big money interests interfered with the vote, the UAW filed election objections with the National Labor Relations Board. But Volkswagen was not eager for a public airing of that election conduct. So in an April 2014 agreement between Volkswagen and the UAW, the union agreed to withdraw its objections at the NLRB and Volkswagen promised to recognize the UAW based on its majority support. The UAW withdrew its objections; Volkswagen has ignored its promise.

The UAW chartered Local 42 in July 2014 to carry on the fight. Tennessee politicians, especially Gov. Bill Haslam, have continued a drumbeat of baseless assertions that unionization would hurt the state’s economic vitality, completely ignoring the thriving General Motors plant in Spring Hill represented by UAW Local 1853. In 2015, Local 42 made the strategic decision to pursue its goal of a collective bargaining agreement in a series of steps. The first step was to seek an election for the plant’s 160 skilled trades workers. Volkswagen scrambled to re-engage with the union, asking for meetings to discuss its long-ignored agreement on recognition. Meetings were scheduled and then canceled by the company. When Local 42 filed its petition at the NLRB, Volkswagen sent a “special communication” to all Chattanooga employees, notifying them of its opposition to the petition but indicating it would enter collective bargaining if the UAW was elected.

Local 42 was elected, by better than a 70% margin. Yet within weeks of their victory, Volkswagen again went back on its word, refusing to begin negotiations and appealing the NLRB’s election decision. Volkswagen’s refusal to bargain is not only a reversal of its pre-election statements, but violates its own Declaration on Social Rights and Industrial Relationships.

“To regain the trust of its stakeholders, Volkswagen must make corporate social responsibility (CSR) more than just a slogan and a public relations strategy. It must recognize that emissions controls are meant to limit the social costs of air pollution, and that collective bargaining helps create and sustain a productive and secure workforce.

“The 12.5 million women and men of the AFL-CIO call on Volkswagen to turn a new page, fulfill its promises, and sit down with UAW Local 42 to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.”

UAW Files NLRB Charges Against Volkswagen

12/22/2015: The UAW today released the following statement after filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stipulating that Volkswagen Group of America is violating the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to enter into collective bargaining with skilled-trades employees at the company’s Chattanooga facility.
 
Gary Casteel, Secretary-Treasuer of the UAW and director of the union’s Transnational Department, said: “The NLRB determined that Volkswagen’s skilled-trades employees constitute an appropriate collective bargaining unit, then supervised a fair election, and then promptly certified the results. Volkswagen’s skilled trades employees voted overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their representative for the purposes of entering into collective bargaining, which is a very common practice between employees and employers. Following this month’s election, we were hopeful that the company would accept the results and recommit to the principles of social responsibility that made Volkswagen a respected global brand. Instead, Volkswagen has refused to come to the bargaining table in violation of federal law. By refusing to engage in collective bargaining after a successful election, Volkswagen is not only doing a disservice to its employees but now is thumbing its nose at the federal government as well.”
 
Editor’s note: The NLRB describes collective bargaining as an effort between an employer and employees to “bargain in good faith about wages, hours, vacation time, insurance, safety practices and other subjects.”

Volkswagen Skilled Trades Employees Vote for Collective Bargaining

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UAW Local 42 President Mike Cantrell and UAW Region 8 Director Ray Curry speak to the media.

12/4/2015: Skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant have voted overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their representative for the purpose of initiating collective bargaining.

In a two-day election on Thursday and Friday, 152 skilled trades employees cast ballots. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which supervised the election, confirmed that 71% of employees voting favored recognition for Local 42. Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining.

“A key objective for our local union always has been moving toward collective bargaining for the purpose of reaching a multi-year contract between Volkswagen and employees in Chattanooga,” said Mike Cantrell, president of Local 42. “We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining. We believe these paths will give all of us a voice at Volkswagen in due time.”

Cantrell reiterated that the timing of the skilled trades election is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. In its election petition to the NLRB, Local 42 noted that its members asked Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled trades employees in early August — more than a month before the emissions scandal was revealed.

Looking ahead, Cantrell said Local 42 will communicate immediately with Volkswagen leaders — in the U.S. and Germany — about initiating collective bargaining for the skilled trades employees at the earliest possible date.

Collective bargaining is a common practice between employees and employers in the U.S. The NLRB describes collective bargaining as an effort between an employer and employees to “bargain in good faith about wages, hours, vacation time, insurance, safety practices and other subjects.”

Ray Curry, director of UAW Region 8 covering the South, commended Volkswagen employees for exercising their rights in a representation election.

“Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga have had a long journey in the face of intense political opposition, and they have made steady progress,” Curry said. “We’re proud of their courage and persistence. We urge Volkswagen to respect the decision of its employees and recognize the local union as the representative of the skilled trades unit.”

Local 42 has strong support among blue-collar workers in the Chattanooga plant — the only Volkswagen facility in the world that remains unrepresented on the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, the influential body of employee leaders from around the world.

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the international union’s Transnational Department, said the UAW will continue pressing Volkswagen to fulfill an earlier commitment. In spring 2014, Volkswagen agreed to recognize a UAW local union as the representative of its members in order for the union’s members and the company to enter into collective bargaining.

Casteel urged Volkswagen to drop its plans to appeal the outcome of today’s election.

“It’s overdue time for Volkswagen to refocus on the values that made it a successful brand — environmental sustainability and meaningful employee representation,” Casteel said. “The hard-working members of UAW Local 42 stand ready to assist in the Volkswagen comeback story. Our hope is that the company now is ready to move forward in the German spirit of co-determination.”

TIMELINE: UAW LOCAL 42

July 2014: Volkswagen employees form UAW Local 42, a new local union providing representation for employees at the company’s Chattanooga plant. Four days later, Volkswagen announces the creation of 2,000 new jobs through the addition of a new mid-size SUV product line at the Chattanooga plant.

September 2014: The Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, German trade union IG Metall, and the UAW sign a letter of intent declaring their joint desire for Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant to be a “UAW-represented facility.”

December 2014: Volkswagen verifies UAW Local 42’s membership at the highest level under the company’s new three-tier Community Organization Engagement policy. Local union leaders initiate biweekly meetings with the Volkswagen Human Resources and monthly meetings with the Volkswagen Chattanooga Executive Committee to discuss matters of concern to employees.

April 2015: In a filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, UAW Local 42 demonstrates that its membership constitutes a majority of Volkswagen’s blue-collar workforce in Chattanooga.

May 2015: UAW Local 42 advances a “vision statement” for establishing a German-style works council at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. The 36-page document, based on a framework agreed to by the UAW and Volkswagen in early 2014, outlines a path for meaningful co-determination between employees and management. To date, Volkswagen has not responded to the vision statement.

August 2015: Members of UAW Local 42 ask Volkswagen to recognize the local union as the bargaining representative of skilled trades employees at the Chattanooga plant. The company declines the request.

October 2015: UAW Local 42 files paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a representation election for employees in the skilled trades unit.

November 2015: The NLRB rules in favor of UAW Local 42 and orders an election for 160 skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, rejecting an attempt by the company to block the election.

December 2015: Skilled trades employees at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga vote overwhelmingly to designate UAW Local 42 as their bargaining representative.