UAW Targets Tennessee Volkswagen Workers Once Again

Posted by Rowan Saydlowski on Friday, March 22nd, 2024 at 11:58 am - Permalink

Photo credit: Ivan Radic on Flickr

Despite years of failed attempts to unionize the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is targeting workers at the facility yet again.

The UAW announced on Monday that they are pursuing a union election at the Chattanooga plant after a petition was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The facility, which is VW’s only assembly plant in the United States, employs more than 4,000 autoworkers who could be subject to unionization if the UAW is successful.

Volkswagen is one of the 13 nonunion automakers that UAW President Shawn Fain declared he would be targeting over the next several years. This new wave of unionization campaigns follows on the heels of another UAW pressure campaign to extract contract concessions from the “Big Three” unionized automakers (Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis) under the threat of massive labor strikes.

“When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big Three but with the Big Five or Big Six,” Fain said at the time, expressing his aspirations for unionizing several more vehicle producers in a new series of campaigns.

The Chattanooga VW plant is an interesting place for the union to start. The facility has long been a union battleground––and UAW has repeatedly lost the battle. Most recently, workers at the plant rejected the UAW in a 2019 union election by a vote of 833-776. Another vote in 2014 ended in a loss for the UAW with 712 voting against union representation and just 626 voting in favor.

One thing that has changed since these previous union campaigns, however, is that the President and congressional Democrats are increasingly putting their thumb on the scale in favor of Big Labor. President Biden and his handpicked Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su have declared themselves to be part of the “most pro-union administration in American history.” The Biden Department of Labor and NLRB have accordingly both published regulations that give unions a leg up in organizing campaigns.

Government-backed support for Big Labor’s agenda ramped up even more in January, when 33 Democrat Senators sent a letter to the CEOs of the thirteen automakers targeted by UAW to demand the use of “neutrality agreements” in future negotiations with the union. This letter was a direct attempt by Democrats to intimidate the companies into staying silent and acquiescing to the demands of union bosses.

UAW President Shawn Fain may see these unprecedented actions as a fair reward for his endorsement of Joe Biden and bankrolling of Democrat campaigns, but it’s a bad deal for the workers he claims to represent.

If the UAW pushes forward with yet another union election at VW’s Chattanooga plant, NLRB has a responsibility to ensure that workers are afforded their right to a secret ballot free from bullying by union officials. Workers also deserve to be fully informed of the drawbacks of being pushed under the UAW’s umbrella. Volkswagen, and the majority of its workers who have repeatedly opposed unionization, should not be intimidated into silence.