Published September 27, 2013
Autoworkers at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant say they've been tricked into supporting a drive to bring in the union.
Workers at the two-year-old Chattanooga plant informally indicated support for bringing in the United Auto Workers, a decision that could pave the way for letting the powerhouse labor organization represent workers in collective bargaining. However, since Tennessee is one of 24 so-called "Right to Work" states, plant employees don't have to sign up or contribute dues.
Now, some eight workers at the plant, which employs about 1,600, say they thought they were simply agreeing to have a secret vote on bringing in the union, when in fact, they were signing cards professing their support for it. The workers also say that when they objected, they were told they had to go to the local union hall in order to reclaim the cards. The National Right to Work Foundation filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
“There’s been a long history of bad actions in pushing workers into the union,” Patrick Semmens, vice president of legal information for the NRTW foundation, told FoxNews.com. “These workers were told that it was a secret ballot vote. They were being forced into the union illegally.”
In the complaint, Semmens' group alleges the UAW solicited workers' signatures on ‘authorization cards’ through unlawful means including, “misrepresentations, coercion, threats, and promises.” The group also charged the UAW "misrepresented to employees the purpose for signing the cards."
Officials for the UAW ignored repeated requests for comment from FoxNews.com, but in previous reports stated that a majority of the plant’s workers have signed union cards expressing interest in the union.
UAW officials also called the allegations in the complaint “frivolous and baseless” and an effort to delay talks between the union and Volkswagen.
“We don’t think it is frivolous,” Semmens said. “There’s a long history of bad actions in pushing workers into the union.
The Chatanooga VW plant has proven to be a vital proving ground for the UAW, as a successful organizing push could make it easier for the union to gain support at other plants such as the Nissan assembly plant in Canton, Miss., and a Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama. Both are Right-to-Work states.
The UAW has been sent packing in efforts to organize at South Korean and Japanese-owned plants in the U.S., but believes a labor deal can be struck with Volkswagen. In Germany, Volkswagen workers are represented by the IG Metall union, which, with more than 2 million members, is six times the size of the UAW, and which actually holds seats on Volkswagen's supervisory board.
If Volkswagen agrees, and a majority of plant workers indicate they support being unionized, the UAW can come in without going through a formal vote. But it is not clear if Volkswagen's is willing to support the UAW's push for recognition in Chattanooga without a formal vote among the workers, according to Reuters.