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Our Message to VW Shareholders: “We Deserve Collective Bargaining!”

Our fight for collective bargaining received a hearing 4,500 miles away and across the Atlantic Ocean at the annual meeting of Volkswagen shareholders held May 10 in Hannover, Germany. Local 42 President Steve Cochran delivered a clear and unequivocal message to the gathering: Volkswagen is operating in violation of its own principles and the demands of its employee unions around the world in failing to meet us at the collective bargaining table.

Cochran’s remarks came in support of a motion made by the union to deny approval of the actions of the Volkswagen board. Of course there was no expectation that the motion would pass since only holders of original stock are entitled to vote at this meeting. A majority of those shares are held by members of the Porsche and Piëch families. But by addressing the shareholders in this meeting and responding to inquiries from the German press, we were able to get the truth out to a wider audience, and more importantly, on Volkswagen’s home turf. Volkswagen believes that they can keep their illegal actions and their alliance with anti-union politicians confined to Tennessee.

As word of our situation receives wider attention among Volkswagen investors and customers, pressure grows on Volkswagen to face its responsibilities. Just as the strategy to stall and delay was misguided in the diesel scandal, it is also a failing strategy in Chattanooga.

Union Leaders From VW Overseas Plants Visit Chattanooga

Union representatives from Volkswagen plants in Mexico, Poland, Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom – as well as a large contingent from Local 42 – met in Chattanooga on April 12 and 13 to exchange information on Volkswagen’s labor practices and establish common ground for collective action. IG Metall, the union for Volkswagen employees in Germany, sent representatives from their national office. The meeting was convened by IndustriALL, the global union of auto workers around the world.

Local 42 Acting President Steve Cochran and Recording Secretary Dave Gleeson shared the history of our plant, the anti-union campaign surrounding the 2014 vote, the successful maintenance vote in December 2015, and Volkswagen’s refusal to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement. Our overseas guests described their unions’ relationship with the company in their plants, and expressed shock at Volkswagen’s actions. A representative from Brazil said it reminded him of VW’s behavior during that country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.

Before leaving Chattanooga to return to their plants, the representatives unanimously agreed on a series of actions, including

  • Educating VW workers at overseas locations on Volkswagen’s behavior in Chattanooga;
  • Raising our dispute with VW plant managers around the world;
  • Taking action at IndustriALL’s upcoming Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland;
  • Raising VW’s union-busting at the VW Global Works Council meeting in August.

Tennessee Auto Workers Receive Record Bonus

Spring Hill GM Workers Earn $12,000 Profit Sharing Checks

money in hand full

As a result of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the United Auto Workers (UAW) with General Motors, hourly workers are set to receive the largest profit sharing checks in history – up to $12,000 per employee. The UAW negotiated the profit sharing guarantee in the 2015 contract. Profit sharing allows workers to share in the success of the company and recognizes their contributions to overall profitability.

Spring Hill GM employees are part of 150,000 auto workers across America who are receiving profit sharing payments through their UAW collective bargaining agreements. Ford announced last month that its hourly workers will receive $9,000, to be paid on March 9. Fiat-Chrysler hourly employees will receive $5,000 profit sharing checks on February 17, bringing the total to $18,000 received per employee since 2009.

In addition to profit sharing, GM, Ford and Chrysler

GM Workers End 2016 With Quality Bonuses

General Motors workers, including those up the road at the Spring Hill plant, ended 2016 with cash in their pockets. As part of their collective bargaining agreement with the company, production and maintenance employees received $500 bonuses in December for meeting quality targets. The cash helped them provide a merry Christmas for their families.

The bonuses were only a small part of the economic gains GM workers received in 2016 under their contract. They started off 2016 with an $11,000 profit sharing check, then received a 4% lump sum bonus, as well as a $1,000 performance bonus in May. Their collective bargaining agreement insures that they get to share in the success they helped their company achieve.

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

Welcome Back James Robinson!

Many of us have observed how differently supposed infractions are dealt with in our plant, depending on the supervisor involved or who it is supposedly committing the infraction. James Robinson, a team member in the Assembly shop, had the courage to stand up for equal treatment when it came to the uniform policy. And as a result of his complaints, James was improperly fired.

James worked with Local 42 to file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB agreed with our charge and issued a complaint alleging Volkswagen had violated the National Labor Relations Act by treating Brother Robinson unequally. Before the case went to trial, Volkswagen agreed to reinstate him under a new supervisor. Additionally, Volkswagen made James whole with over $19,000 of back pay.

Brother Robinson sent a letter of thanks to Local 42, saying “if we hadn’t formed Local 42 two years ago, the kind of injustice that was done to me would become the norm.” He went on, “one day when we have a collective bargaining agreement, this kind of behavior will be even harder for the company to get away with. But until then, we in Local 42 have to continue to be a watchdog for fairness.”

Congratulations James and welcome back!

Volkswagen’s ‘Hail Mary Pass

lady-liberty

The dictionary defines a Hail Mary Pass as a long forward pass in football where completion is considered unlikely. Volkswagen’s Hail Mary Pass is appealing maintenance workers’ union representation victory to the federal courts. Volkswagen’s appeal will almost certainly fail since every appeals court that’s considered such a case has rejected Volkswagen’s position.

The news outlet Reuters reported last month that Volkswagen faces a bumpy road in their court challenge. (read the article here) They say that experts predict Volkswagen’s legal strategy will fail, noting “every appeals court to consider a case under a standard backed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has sided with unions, including five this year.”

So why would Volkswagen use this delay tactic, since they are almost certain to lose and have to sit down and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement? Reuters notes that “with court losses piling up, the business lobby is backing a stalled effort by Republicans in Congress to reinstate a previous, more business-friendly standard for scrutinizing proposed units of workers.” However, this would require that Republicans hold onto Congress in the November 8th elections, and that Donald Trump wins so that such legislation isn’t vetoed.

Who would have known that Volkswagen has such high stakes in our national elections?

ACE Out!

When the Jump Start reported on September 22nd that ACE had been disqualified under the

no-ace

 COE policy, it did not come as shocking news. The group had clearly been on life support for some time. It was not surprising that an organization funded by outside anti-union business groups with no positive message of growth or change, would not appeal to most people. But where did ACE come from in the first place

ACE grew out of the network of outside political and business groups that oppose union representation. Its registered agent is Maury Nicely who was formerly Volkswagen’s in-house counsel for human resources at our plant. He created the group “Southern Momentum” in January 2014 and coordinated his anti-union activities with Senator Bob Corker’s office, Governor Bill Haslam’s administration, former manager Don Jackson, and anti-union consultants. After the narrow loss in the February 2014 union election, Nicely’s law firm, Evans Harrison & Hackett, registered ACE as a Tennessee corporation with the Secretary of State on October 21, 2014.ACE was never able to get traction in the plant. They would never disclose their sources of funding, which led to speculation that they were colluding with anti-union politicians. After all, Nicely himself once told the Associated Press “this sounds almost silly, but ACE is a nonunion union.”

VOLKSWAGEN RESPONDS TO CONGRESS … SORT OF

vw-to-congress

When sixty-one members of Congress wrote to Christian Koch and Sebastian Patta to express their concern about the company’s defiance of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), they asked them to respond and explain their behavior. After nearly two months Congress has finally received a response, not from Koch and Patta, but from the company’s lawyer David Geanacopoulos in Virginia.

The letter doesn’t answer the question that Congress put to them, specifically, why Volkswagen has ignored the democratic vote of its employees and the decisions of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. Despite Mr. Geanacopoulos’s claim that “Volkswagen respects the right of our employees to decide the question of union representation,” the facts are pretty simple and clear: in December 2015 skilled trades employees decided to choose union representation with Local 42; Volkswagen has not respected that decision.

You can read Volkswagen’s letter > geanacopoulos-reply-to-rep-kildee.