UAW, VW works council hold talks to organize Tenn. factory, report says

UAW, VW works council hold talks to organize Tenn. factory, report says
Staff and wire reports
Automotive News | July 11, 2011 – 4:22 pm EST
UPDATED: 7/11/11 8:48 pm ET

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the talks were between the UAW and Volkswagen AG.

Volkswagen AG’s works council and the UAW have intensified discussions about organizing workers at a new VW plant in Tennessee, German newspaper Handelsblatt reported in a preview of an article that will run Tuesday.

The paper said the UAW and the automaker’s works council have held meetings, along with a workshop, with the general secretary of the world works council, Michael Riffel, in the past week.

VW’s world works council is made up of labor representatives from various operations at the automaker.

“For Volkswagen, it is a matter of course that the workforce organizes itself,” Riffel told the paper. “This decision is up to our colleagues in the U.S.”

After decades of receiving a cold shoulder from foreign automakers in the South, the UAW is courting the region’s newest company. VW has opened a $1 billion plant in Chattanooga to build an all-new Passat sedan.

The factory currently has above 1,400 employees, including 900 production associates that would be targeted by the union.

A VW spokesman said the plant will eventually employ 1,200 production workers.

The talks come as UAW President Bob King has made it a union priority to recruit workers at a U.S. transplant.

King recently met in Germany with the heads of German industrial union IG Metal and VW’s works council, the paper said.

VW has traditionally had an organized work force globally — making executives and employees at the Chattanooga factory “more willing to talk to unions about representation,” UAW officials told The Associated Press last week.

German automakers are also governed by a supervisory board made up of labor and management representatives.

Gary Casteel, director of the UAW’s southern region, told the AP some workers at the Chattanooga plant have reached out to the union and there have been discussions with VW executives.

Casteel said no official organizing effort has started.

“We have dialogue with them,” Casteel said last week in an interview with the AP.

“Any decision on representation belongs to our employees alone,” Volkswagen told the AP last week.

The union — battered by cutbacks at Detroit automakers and steady membership losses — has been unsuccessful in efforts to organize workers at U.S. plants wholly owned by Asian and European automakers.

The union ended 2010 with 376,612 members, up 6 percent from 2009 and marking the first time since 2004 that the union has added to its membership ranks.

Bloomberg contributed to this report

The talks with VW unions come as UAW President Bob King has made it a union priority to recruit workers at a U.S. transplant.

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