11/13/2015: Hollywood actor Danny Glover toured Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant today and met with members of UAW Local 42 to show support for efforts to achieve meaningful employee representation.
Volkwagen’s Chattanooga plant is the company’s only facility in the world that is not represented on the Volkwagen Global Group Works Council, the powerful body of employee leaders from around the world.
“I believe in the idea that worker representation is important and a viable and essential concept,” Glover told the Chattanooga Times Free Press before meeting with Local 42 members.
Glover, a longtime labor supporter, has been working on a feature film in Atlanta and readily accepted an invitation by Local 42 to visit Chattanooga.
Unions have “been a part of my life,” Glover told the newspaper. Best known for his role in the “Lethal Weapon” films, Glover has been a union member as an actor and his parents were in the U.S. Postal Service union. “I believe in the idea of representation and collective bargaining,” he said.
10/23/2015: UAW Local 42 today filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking a representation election for employees in the maintenance, or skilled trades, unit of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.
“A key objective for our local union always has been, and still is, 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 support our colleagues in the skilled trades as they move toward formal recognition of their unit.”
Federal law provides for units within a workforce to seek recognition for the purpose of achieving collective bargaining. 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.”
Collective bargaining is a common practice between employees and employers in the U.S. On Wednesday, the Local 42 membership voted overwhelmingly to support a proposal by skilled trades employees to seek a representation election. No further decisions have been made at this time by the Local 42 membership.
In December 2014, Local 42 secured limited considerations under Volkswagen’s Community Organization Engagement policy. Under the policy, which is unique to the company’s Chattanooga facility, the local union meets regularly with plant managers regarding matters of concern to employees such as shift scheduling. Earlier this month, the company re-verified Local 42’s membership at the highest level under the policy.
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 Volkswagen employee leaders from around the world.
“Volkswagen’s policy in Chattanooga was a gesture and our local union has engaged accordingly,” said Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW International union and director of the union’s Transnational Department. “At the end of the day, the policy cannot be a substitute for meaningful employee representation and co-determination with management.”
Casteel added: “The international union will provide ongoing technical assistance to the local union as it strives toward collective bargaining and its rightful seat on the Global Group Works Council.”
Casteel and Cantrell both emphasized that the timing of the skilled trades filing with the NLRB is unrelated to the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
“We have said from the beginning of Local 42 that there are multiple paths to reach collective bargaining,” Cantrell said. “We have been considering this option for some time. All options have been, and will remain, on the table.”
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.
9/24/2015: The UAW today released the following statement from Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and head of the union’s transnational department, regarding the Volkswagen emissions scandal:
“Like the rest of the nation and the world, we are troubled by findings of software manipulations in Volkswagen Group diesel cars that violate U.S. environmental standards. The international union and UAW Local 42 at Volkswagen in Chattanooga are fully committed to clean air and environmental sustainability. We’re glad Volkswagen management stepped forward and pledged to clearly, openly, and completely establish the facts of this case. We believe transparency is the key to resolving this crisis, and that through transparency Volkswagen will be able to emerge as a stronger and more responsible manufacturer. We have communicated to the company that the international union and Local 42 stand ready to assist with any forthcoming recall or other efforts.”
5/7/2015: The UAW today released the following statement from Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and head of the union’s transnational department, regarding the progress of UAW Local 42 at Volkswagen in Chattanooga:
“UAW Local 42, with advice and counsel from the International union, is advancing a German-style works council concept that we jointly developed with Volkswagen Group of America in January 2014. The original concept, agreed to by UAW and Volkswagen officials as part of a larger election agreement, outlined a framework through which the union and the company could together establish a path for management and employees to cooperate on matters inside the plant.
“A more detailed version of this concept, in the form of a proposed ‘Vision Statement,’ has been submitted to the company for its consideration. Volkswagen’s top labor officials, including Berthold Huber, acting chairman of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board, have noted that a works council can only exist under U.S. law with the involvement of a union — and they have said the union in Chattanooga should be the UAW. The Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, the influential organization of employee leaders from around the world, has expressed its desire for Chattanooga to be a ‘UAW-represented facility.’
“With UAW Local 42 now representing a clear majority of the blue-collar workforce in the Chattanooga plant, we believe the time has come to resume the works council talks that we began with management more than a year ago. We look forward to productive conversations with the company about the future of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga operations.”
For more information, read the UAW-Volkswagen Works Council Documents
4/13/2015: UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel, who serves as director of the union’s International Department, today joined well-known actor Danny Glover and a top leader of the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council in briefing international supporters on the progress of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga.
Speaking to delegates at a labor conference in Sao Paulo Brazil, Casteel described how Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga “did not give up” despite outside interference in 2014 and even quoted Local 42 member Chris Brown, who told media outlets that “last year’s experience only made us stronger.”
After Volkswagen employees established Local 42 in July 2014, the local union quickly signed up a majority of the blue-collar workforce in the Chattanooga plant and earned the confidence of the Volkswagen Global Group and IG Metall, which jointly expressed their desire for Chattanooga to be a “UAW-represented facility.” Volkswagen soon verified Local 42’s membership at the highest level under a new company policy. Now, local union leaders are in regular talks with Volkswagen plant management regarding matters of concern to employees.
“The members of our UAW local union are on a path to join their Volkswagen co-workers from around the world in securing a voice in the workplace,” Casteel said to loud applause from hundreds of attendees at the CNM/CUT Congress. Members of CNM/CUT, the Brazilian metalworkers union, have been closely monitoring developments in Chattanooga due to Volkswagen’s strong presence in Brazil.
After the speech, Casteel and Glover, a leading champion of workers rights, joined Volkswagen Global Group Vice President Valdir Freire Dias (better known by his nickname “Chalita”) in touring Volkswagen’s Achieta facility. On the tour, they sported Local 42’s signature blue shirts, to the delight of the carmaker’s Brazilian team members.
12/8/2014: Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, who heads the International Union’s Transnational Department, today released the following statement regarding Volkswagen’s verification of the membership of UAW Local 42:
“We appreciate Volkswagen’s timely response in verifying UAW Local 42’s substantial membership level, which exceeds a majority of workers at the plant. As anticipated, we surpassed the highest level under Volkswagen’s new Community Organization Engagement policy, and the local leadership is ready to move forward with additional conversations with the company. As a starting point, UAW Local 42 will take advantage of the company’s offer to establish biweekly meetings with Volkswagen Human Resources and the Volkswagen Chattanooga Executive Committee.
“In the initial conversations, the local union will remind Human Resources and the Chattanooga Executive Committee of the mutually agreed-upon commitments that were made by Volkswagen and the UAW last spring in Germany. Among those commitments: Volkswagen will recognize the UAW as the representative of our members. We believe Volkswagen made this commitment in good faith and we believe the company will honor this commitment.
“Additionally, the local union will present the Chattanooga plant management with the September letter of intent in which the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council expressed its desire for the Chattanooga plant to be a ‘UAW-represented facility.’ With this in mind, we will be working toward the process of collective bargaining with the company.
“Looking ahead, a cornerstone of Volkswagen’s business model is employee representation and participation in the Global Group Works Council. Until now, Chattanooga has been the only plant not represented on the Global Group Works Council. Chattanooga finally takes part in the Volkswagen philosophy and culture.”
11/12/2014: Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, today released the following statement regarding Volkswagen’s new Community Organization Engagement policy:
“We appreciate Volkswagen’s effort to articulate a policy for how it will engage with UAW Local 42 and its members in Chattanooga. We have questions about this policy, which we’ll work through in discussions with management. But this is a step forward in building stronger relations between management and employees.
“Today, we will begin working with Volkswagen so the company can verify our substantial membership level, which now is in excess of a majority of workers at the plant. When that verification has been completed, we will take advantage of the company’s offer to establish regular meetings with Volkswagen Human Resources and the Volkswagen Chattanooga Executive Committee. In the first conversations that will occur, we will remind them of the mutually agreed-upon commitments that were made by Volkswagen and the UAW last spring in Germany. Among those commitments: Volkswagen will recognize the UAW as the representative of our members. We believe Volkswagen made this commitment in good faith and we believe the company will honor this commitment. Additionally, we will present the Chattanooga plant management with the September letter of intent in which the influential Volkswagen Global Group Works Council expressed its desire for the Chattanooga plant to be a ‘UAW-represented facility.’
“Looking ahead: A cornerstone of Volkswagen’s business model is employee representation and participation in the Global Group Works Council. Until now, Chattanooga has been the only plant not represented on the Global Group Works Council. With UAW Local 42, Volkswagen’s employees in Tennessee now can join their fellow team members from around the world in securing a voice in the workplace. The members of UAW Local 42 are excited about the future and stand ready to roll up their sleeves and make Chattanooga a continued success for Volkswagen.”
10/2/2014: UAW Local 42 is drawing praise from labor leaders across America — including those in the National Football League and Major League Baseball.
Upon learning of Local 42 and Volkswagen’s newly announced plant expansion in Chattanooga, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith congratulated Volkswagen employees. “It doesn’t matter whether your hand is on the scrimmage line or the assembly line, you need your own organization to help co-determine your future,” Smith wrote in a letter to Local 42 members. “Having a union is like playing a team sport. Everyone must pull together for the success of all.”
Smith compared the UAW’s efforts to those of the NFL Players Association. “We look out for the health and safety of NFL players just as UAW Local 42 will seek to insure safe work practices for Volkswagen production and maintenance employees,” he said. “The NFLPA provides on-the-job representation for players, as UAW Local 42 does for auto workers. And just as the NFLPA partners with team owners to insure the future success of the National Football League, UAW Local 42 will partner with Volkswagen to make your plant economically successful for years to come.”
He added: Local 42 members can “build a strong and solid organization to help yourselves, your families, and the greater Chattanooga community.”
Similarly, Major League Baseball Players Executive Director Tony Clark congratulated the members of Local 42. “We support your efforts to form a union at your workplace,” Clark wrote in a separate letter. “I would encourage you to follow in the footsteps of millions of other employees across the United States and become — as they have — a part of a labor union that negotiates the terms and conditions of their employment, sitting across the table from management as equal parties under the federal law that guarantees the right to union representation.”
Clark said Major League Baseball players have “achieved much through collective bargaining, including a fair pension, good health insurance and a grievance and arbitration process.” He added: “I urge all of you to stick together, to join UAW Local 42, and to then go on to bargain for a fair contract that brings you greater respect and a greater voice on the job.
“I wish you the best of luck.”