NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A majority of workers at Volkswagen’s assembly plant in Tennessee have signed cards favoring the union’s representation in creating a German-style works council at the plant, a top United Auto Workers official said.
Gary Casteel, a Tennessee-based regional director for the UAW, told The Associated Press that the cards include a statement about wanting to join VW’s Global Works Council and supporting cooperative and collaborative relations with the company. The cards are as legally binding as an election by the workers at the plant in Chattanooga, he said.
Union representation at Volkswagen would signal a sea change in labor relations among foreign automakers who have resisted unions at their plants in the South.
Foreign-based automakers have resisted the union because of what they consider added costs, burdensome work rules and added layers of bureaucracy. The UAW has tried to get away from that, portraying itself as an ally of the automakers as they try to boost productivity.
“With input from the employees they can increase their through-put, quality, efficiency, health and safety,” Casteel said.
But Republican politicians in the region have expressed fears that a UAW foothold at Volkswagen could spread to other automakers and hurt future recruiting efforts.
Casteel said the union has not put a formal timeline on when it would seek official recognition at the plant.
“We’re interested in bringing a new labor model to the U.S.,” he said. “That’s the reason we continue to work on this.”
The UAW card states that workers at the plant “commend and embrace the Volkswagen philosophy of co-determination and aim to contribute to the production of the highest quality products, safe and efficient production methods, and the overall profitability of Volkswagen.”
A spokesman for the VW plant declined to comment.