Workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Tennessee claim they are being coerced into joining the UAW, but it’s not the union they’re complaining about. Instead, four workers allege that VW officials are pressuring them to join the UAW in order to avoid jeopardizing the plant’s chance of obtaining additional jobs and vehicle production, Reuters reports.
The workers, along with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, filed the complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and claim the automaker is violating “Chattanooga facility employees’ rights to choose whether or not to engage in self-organization to form, join, or assist labor organizations.”
Some VW officials, however, are convinced UAW representation would be beneficial. Among them is VW’s head of global works council Bernd Osterloh, who is in favor of forming a “works council” in Chattanooga, which would allow both employees and management to discuss pay and benefits. However, forming such a board or group within a company is illegal in the U.S. without representation from a U.S. trade union like the UAW.
And according to Reuters, Osterloh also serves as a deputy VW chairman and can influence production decisions. “It would be good if the Chattanooga factory already had a works council, because what’s also at stake at the moment is another model for our U.S. factory,” Osterloh said in a statement last week.
The vehicle he speaks of is VW’s upcoming seven-passenger crossover that could roll out of the automaker’s plant in Mexico or Chattanooga, which currently produces the Volkswagen Passat. That said, establishing a works council in Tennessee will be a substantial challenge for the automaker. “With reports that Volkswagen is considering Chattanooga to build its new SUV, this is no idle threat,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation.