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Charges fly at VW’s Chattanooga plant

October 17th, 2013  |  David Stephanides

Updating an earlier post, eight VW workers at the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant have filed charges with the NLRB against the UAW, saying that it misled and coerced them, along with other workers, into forfeiting their rights during the recent card check unionization drive, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW). Via free legal assistance from NRTW lawyers, the workers filed their charges at the NLRB’s regional office in Atlanta.

And on October 16, it was reported that four more workers filed a federal charge with the Board alleging that statements by German VW officials illegally coerced them into UAW representation, also according to the NRTW. The charge comes after the officials stated, according to recent media reports, that for any expanded production to be considered in Chattanooga, the plant must adopt a works council that would force workers to accept the representation by the UAW.

“With reports that Volkswagen is considering Chattanooga to build its new SUV, this is no idle threat,” said Mark Mix, NRTW president. “If VW management was discouraging workers from joining the UAW with threats, there’s little question that an NLRB prosecution would have already begun at the UAW’s behest.”

The cards not only authorized the union to represent the workers, they also ostensibly authorize the importation of a German-style “work council” to the U.S. plant. The card includes language stating that the workers “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.” The language goes on to state: “We believe that the best way to actively participate in our company and to contribute to VW’s continued success is to achieve representation as our colleagues have at the other 61 Volkswagen facilities across the globe.”

The charges filed by the VW workers — some nine days after a UAW spokesperson confirmed to Employment Law Daily that the union had obtained a majority of UAW authorization cards — are said to state that union organizers told the workers that a signature on the card was to call for a secret ballot unionization election. The charges also purportedly allege other problems in the card check process, including that some of the cards used were signed too long ago to be valid. The NLRB charges seek an order that UAW union officials cease and desist from demanding recognition based upon the tainted cards.

According to the NRTW, union officials have told workers that they must physically appear at the union office if they want their cards returned to them. Purportedly, these workers sought to revoke their signatures following media reports suggesting that workers were misled or bribed into signing cards.

The NRTW acknowledges that this latest development stems from a NRTW “special legal notice” targeted to the VW workers. The notice points to the decline of the UAW and suggests that the union now “sees German-style ‘works councils’ as its salvation.” The notice also disputes the alleged claim of the UAW’s president that workers must join the union and authorize it to be exclusive bargaining agency in order to have such a work council. The NRTW’s targeted notice also advises VW workers of several rights under the NLRA, including their right to revoke a union authorization card that they have signed and exactly how to do so.

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