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As auto workers, we build vehicles that Americans from all walks of life rely on and that help drive our economy. But we do this critical work under unstable conditions and have to rely on unpredictable schedules, as well as wages and benefits that have declined over time in our industry. By joining together in a union, we can build a stronger voice as auto workers. Through collective bargaining, we would have more power to negotiate for improved and more predictable wages and benefits, as well as stronger and more enforceable rights on our jobs on issues like time off and scheduling, health and safety, and discrimination and harassment. We can improve our life at work and improve our quality of life away from work and with our families. 

Collective bargaining is a process, recognized and protected by federal law, that balances the power relationship between employees and their employer. Under collective bargaining, we elect representatives to negotiate on equal footing with our employer and put the terms of our employment into a legally binding contract. Through collective bargaining, workers have successfully negotiated improvements in wages, hours, benefits, safety, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Without collective bargaining, the company has unilateral power to change our working conditions or decide whether or not to make improvements. For example, a non-union auto company can currently determine unilaterally whether or not we receive fair wages or predictable pay increases, whether or not we have stable work schedules that we can plan our lives around, the quality and cost of our benefits, or any other policies that affect our work in the plant every day. 

After winning official recognition as a union, workers in the UAW go through the following steps to negotiate with their employer. 

  • workers elect a bargaining committee from among the workforce; 
  • the committee gathers worker feedback to develop initial bargaining goals;
  • the committee pursues these goals in bargaining sessions with the company; 
  • when the committee has negotiated a tentative agreement it feels they can recommend, workers vote democratically on whether to ratify it as a first contract;
  • the committee works with experienced UAW negotiators throughout the process; 
  • after a contract is ratified, the membership elects representatives who help run the Local Union or unit, ensure that the company does not violate the terms of the contract, and represent members with grievances and other workplace issues. 

We reached out to the UAW because it is one of the strongest unions in the country and the strongest union in the auto industry. We gain a stronger voice by joining close to 200,000 auto workers who are already members of the UAW. The UAW represents thousands of workers across Tennessee, including UAW Local 1853 that represents GM and other workers in the Spring Hill area. The UAW brings decades of organizing and bargaining experience and expertise to our efforts to win representation at Volkswagen. 

Dues are 1.44% of gross pay, or 2.5 hours of straight time pay per month. Dues are important because they provide the resources that enable effective representation in the workplace. In the UAW, there are no membership dues until workers have gone through the bargaining process and voted democratically to approve our first contract.

No one can be required to become a union member or pay dues or representation fees. In other UAW auto assembly plants, the vast majority of employees sign up as members because the larger our membership the more power we have in the workplace.  This is true not just in Tennessee, but also in other so-called “right-to-work” states like Michigan, Kentucky and Texas.

Our right to strike is one of our most powerful tools as workers. But we decide if and when to strike. Under the UAW Constitution, if 2/3 of participating workers vote yes in a democratic strike authorization vote, the Union may call a strike. 

Currently, VW can change or eliminate any benefit of employment – such as the lease program – without our agreement.  If we win certification of our union,, it would be unlawful for VW to change or eliminate a benefit without our agreement through collective bargaining.  Before we have a union, it is also unlawful for VW to threaten to take away a benefit if we choose to unionize.  As a union, we would democratically determine what our bargaining priorities are, and we would then vote to ratify a contract determined through bargaining. 

It is illegal in the US for your employer to take action or retaliate against you for unionizing. Many of us at VW have openly advocated for unionization for more than ten years and have not faced retaliation from VW.  It is our right as workers to make this decision collectively, and it is inappropriate for a supervisor to use intimidation to discourage us from making that choice. VW works successfully with unionized employees in its plants around the world. 

VW  has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand production in Chattanooga. VW has unionized workforces around the world and it has worked effectively with unionized workers at other plants. 

3 percent of membership dues go toward the UAW Community Action Program (CAP), which supports community and political action, including legislative and other policy advocacy on issues that matter to UAW members. For example, the UAW advocates for fair trade policies that aim to protect our jobs and benefit working people and our families.  However, this dues money cannot be used for federal campaign contributions, such as the presidential race—that money comes from members’ voluntary contributions to the UAW Voluntary Community Action Program or V-CAP, which is separate from, and in addition to, dues.