UAW disputes VW’s neutrality on eve of union vote in Tenn.

UAW disputes VW’s neutrality on eve of union vote in Tenn.
DANIELLE SZATKOWSKI

Volkswagen Group
Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant opened in 2011.

The UAW and Volkswagen Group are disputing whether the automaker is maintaining its neutrality on the eve of a second union-affiliation vote at its assembly plant in Chattanooga.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg told Automotive News on Tuesday that “VW has been holding multiple mandatory meetings with workers where they are pushing out anti-union materials.”

The union’s claim comes just one day before about 1,700 trade workers and production workers are scheduled to vote on affiliating with the UAW. The dates of the election were confirmed by the German automaker and UAW in May after the union petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to set the dates.

Workers at the plant voted against unionizing in 2014. The operation opened in 2011. It makes the Atlas crossover and Passat sedan, and is set to add electric vehicles in 2022.

VW Chattanooga spokesman Amanda Plecas denied the UAW’s claim, while also denying speculation that VW might withhold investment from the plant or that the company has threatened to close the plant if it unionizes.

When asked whether VW would recognize the election results if workers vote to unionize, Plecas told Automotive News that “pending certification of the results by the NLRB and a legal review of the election, Volkswagen will respect the decision of the majority.”

Meanwhile, she said the only time the plant stopped production to hold employee meetings since the UAW filed for its election was when Frank Fischer, who led the company’s operations in Chattanooga from 2008 to 2014, returned to the plant as CEO in May. Fischer’s reintroduction stopped production for 45 minutes, she said.

She added: “We have regularly scheduled all-team meetings every quarter, which are built into the production plan to ensure no production interruptions — no stoppage of the line. The Q2 2019 meeting was held yesterday, but production was not stopped for this standard planned meeting, which has been on the schedule since January 2019.”

The neutrality dispute also rose last month when newly elected Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee spoke to employees behind closed doors. Some employees said the Republican governor’s remarks sent an indirect message urging workers to reject the UAW.

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