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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.