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Maintenance Employees Have Their Day in Court

Since December, 2015, maintenance team members have been waiting for Volkswagen to respect the decision they made in voting by more than 70% for collective bargaining. When the company refused to begin negotiations with Local 42 after the vote, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found Volkswagen in violation of the law and ordered it to begin negotiating with Local 42 immediately. But Volkswagen did not comply and instead filed a lawsuit against the NLRB.

In a Washington, DC courtroom on November 6, 2017, Volkswagen’s stall and delay tactics approached an end. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in the company’s lawsuit. Volkswagen was represented by attorney Arthur Carter of the Littler Mendelson law firm.

Volkswagen’s arguments before the Court of Appeals took a surprising new turn. At the time of the 2015 vote, Volkswagen claimed that the only appropriate unit of employees for collective bargaining purposes had to include maintenance and production employees. Now, two years later, Volkswagen’s lawyer argued that the NLRB erred in approving a unit of maintenance employees from three different departments – Body, Paint and Assembly. Maintenance employees in the three departments do not work together, he claimed, and there is no history of movement of maintenance employees between the departments.

Most surprisingly, when Judge Robert L. Wilkins asked whether separate departmental bargaining units of maintenance employees would be appropriate, Volkswagen’s lawyer answered yes. In other words, while the company originally claimed the bargaining unit should be as large as possible, now they said multiple smaller bargaining units make sense.

The NLRB was represented by attorney Joel Heller, and attorney Matthew Ginsburg represented the union. The Court is expected to issue its decision in the coming months.