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UAW Transnational Director Responds to Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

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.”

UAW Local 42 Advances Works Council Discussions with Volkswagen

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

UAW Local 42 Applauded by International Co-Workers

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.

UAW President: Volkswagen Employees Take Strong Step Forward

12/9/2014: UAW President Dennis William released the following statement about new developments at Volkswagen in Chattanooga: “Today is a very important day for Volkswagen workers. The path for our UAW Local 42 members in Chattanooga has not been easy. They have worked with plant management to arrive at this significant milestone today and we are proud of their efforts. At the UAW, we believe what is good for the worker is good for the company, something that fits squarely with the German principle of co-determination. The UAW has been working for several years, with the support of the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, to understand how we can best support the company’s ongoing expansion into North America in a way that benefits the workers as well as the company. Today is a strong step toward that goal.”

UAW Transnational Director Reacts to New Development at Volkswagen

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.”

Statement on Volkswagen Community Organization Engagement Policy

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.”

 

NFL and MLB Leaders Commend Volkswagen Employees on UAW Local 42

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.”

 

German Labor Leader Wetzel Backs UAW Local 42

7/18/2014: Detlef Wetzel, president of the German trade union IG Metall, today declared his organization’s support for UAW Local 42.

In a letter to Volkswagen employees, Wetzel noted that IG Metall had developed “excellent relations” with the UAW and said Local 42 “responds to the needs of many working men and women at Volkswagen Chattanooga.”

Wetzel reference the car company’s tradition of co-determination between employees and management. “In the spirit of co-determination,” he wrote, “I expect from Volkswagen that it cooperates with Local 42 in a constructive manner.”

He added: “Secure employment and co-determination constitute the model for global success of Volkswagen.”

Volkswagen Leader Huber Supports UAW Local 42

7/18/2014: Berthold Huber, president of the IndustriAll Global Union and member of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board, today expressed his support for the newly established UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga.

In a letter to Local 42 members, Huber offered his congratulations in forming the new local union, which he termed “a huge step forward.” According to Huber: “Workers’ participation and co-determination are key factors for the global success of Volkswagen. Your initiative shows that you want to contribute to the VW success story.” He added: “I want to personally assure you of IndustriAll’s support in gaining representation at Volkswagen.”

Huber’s support for Local 42 builds an a growing relationship with the Volkswagen labor leader. Last month, the UAW honored Huber with the prestigious Walter Reuther Social Justice Award in recognition of Huber’s leadership in helping build global alliances between labor groups around the world.

IndustriAll, which represents more than 15 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors, is a global force in advancing worker rights and improving working conditions.

Volkswagen Employees Launch UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga

7/10/2014: The UAW today announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local union providing representation for employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

Organized by Volkswagen employees, Local 42 offers workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace through the German automaker’s “works council” approach to employee engagement. Volkswagen’s business model is premised on employee representation, and Local 42 will represent any interested employees who join the local as members. No employees will be required to join.

“Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members,” said Dennis Williams, president of the UAW. “At that time, we said we would not give up on these committed and hard-working employees. We’re keeping our promise.”

Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer, who previously served as director of UAW Region 8 covering the South, emphasized: “Local 42 will be run by, and for, the employees at Volkswagen.”

“We’ve had ongoing discussions with Volkswagen and have arrived at a consensus with the company,” Casteel said. “Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members’ union that represents those employees who join the local. As part of this consensus, the UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga.”

UAW officials renewed requests for the State of Tennessee to extend the economic incentives necessary for Volkswagen to add a new product line at the Chattanooga plant, and said the union will continue advocating for increased investment. “State officials have assured the public and the Volkswagen workforce that the decision on incentives for Chattanooga is not related to whether workers exercise their right to join a union,” said Ray Curry, the newly elected director of UAW Region 8. “We are gratified by those assurances, and the state was right to give them.”

UAW officials reiterated the reasoning for recently withdrawing objections to the February election at the plant, which was tainted by outside interference. “As Volkswagen’s works council partner, the UAW’s role is to encourage job creation and promote job security so that Volkswagen employees can achieve the American dream and Chattanooga’s economy can prosper,” Casteel said. “We withdrew objections to end the controversy and put the focus where it belongs: obtaining the economic incentives necessary to ensure the growth of Volkswagen in Chattanooga and the addition of a new product line.”

Volkswagen employees formally announced Local 42 at an afternoon news conference, and immediately began communicating with fellow team members and with the plant’s management about next steps in advancing the works council partnership.

“Being part of the creation of an American-style works council is a chance to do something new and different,” said Michael Cantrell, a Volkswagen paint technician. “This is about securing good jobs for the future of the plant and Chattanooga, and building lasting partnerships between management and team members.”

Additionally, Local 42 members pledged to get involved in the community — as UAW members have done in other communities across the country — to support charitable causes, youth programs and other local needs. “I see Local 42 as an opportunity to give back to Chattanooga and southeast Tennessee,” said Myra Montgomery, a quality inspector in the Volkswagen plant. “As our membership grows, people are going to see us very active in this community.”

Local 42 members declared workforce development to be a top priority, and said they would work with Volkswagen and the UAW to organize job-training opportunities so that employees can continually expand their skills as new technologies emerge and manufacturing processes change.

“Having access to the UAW’s expertise and support will keep the plant competitive and will keep our workforce on the cutting edge of productivity and quality,” said Jonathan Walden, who works in the Volkswagen plant’s paint department. “The members of Local 42 are ready to roll up our sleeves and focus on the future.”