Not Giving Up: UAW Still Looks to Unionize VW’s Chattanooga Plant

Posted by Olivia Grady on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017 at 12:07 pm - Permalink

By Olivia Grady

On April 26, 2017, Gary Casteel, the Secretary-Treasurer for the United Auto Workers (UAW), encouraged by email UAW’s 1 million members to sign a petition. The petition urged Volkswagen (VW) AG executives to reconsider their labor relations decisions on the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Casteel’s email said:

“For months, Volkswagen has used every stall tactic available to avoid recognizing workers’ right to form a union and negotiate a contract.”

This email comes three years after the UAW suffered a major defeat at the Chattanooga plant.

On February 14, 2014, the union lost an election to unionize 1,550 workers by 86 votes, 712 to 626.

It was a disaster for the UAW, who saw this vote as a chance to make inroads in the South and in foreign car plants, two areas where unions traditionally have low support. One other help to the union was that Volkswagen management did not oppose the unionization.

Casteel, UAW Region 8 Director at the time, said after the vote:

"We commend Volkswagen for...trying to provide an atmosphere of freedom to make a decision," said UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union's Southern organizing. "Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility."

The main opposition to this unionization came from Republican lawmakers and nonprofit groups, such as the Center for Worker Freedom.

One example was Republican Senator Bob Corker, who helped Volkswagen choose Chattanooga as the location for its plant. He said in a statement after the vote: “Needless to say, I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future."

Matt Patterson, Executive Director of the Center for Worker Freedom, also said in a statement:

“The workers at Volkswagen looked at the history of this union and made the best decision for themselves, their jobs and their community. In spite of the UAW’s multi-million dollar propaganda machine, and with company and government officials at Obama’s NLRB aiding the union in every possible way, workers learned the facts and were able to make an informed decision.”

While the UAW might not have given up yet, the Center for Worker Freedom has not either and will continue to fight for the workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga.