Three workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board Wednesday saying it must prevent the German auto company from providing any further assistance to the United Auto Workers in its efforts to organize the workers. The complaint is a reaction to the UAW's own request to the board that it order a revote of an organizing election at the Chattanooga facility that the union lost last month.
The VW workers allege that a prior "neutrality" agreement between the company and UAW regarding the election violated the National Labor Relations Act because the union gave "things of value" in exchange for the company making it easier to organize its Chattanooga workers. Essentially, the complaint argues that the union bribed the company by offering it favorable terms for an eventual contract — a situation that would benefit the union leaders and the company, but not the workers.
The argument is essentially the same as the one that was advanced in Unite Here v. Mulhall, a case the Supreme Court initially took up last year, only to drop in December stating that it was "improvidently granted." Legal analysts had earlier noted that it was not clear that the plaintiffs had the proper standing to bring the case to the high court.
The Unite Here v. Mulhall case had been closely watched by labor law experts since these kind "top-down" organizing campaigns where the union first works out a deal with management and only later tries to get the workers on board are a fairly common tactic with Big Labor. Had the justices ruled that neutrality agreements violated the NLRA, it would have been a major blow to organized labor.