Hit enter after type your search item

Tennessee Volkswagen workers vote to join the United Auto Workers union

/
/
/
0 Views

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., voted overwhelmingly Friday to join the United Auto Workers union, in a historic first test of the UAW’s renewed efforts to shut down non-union plants to organise.

The union ultimately received 2,628 votes, or 73% of the votes cast, compared to just 985 who voted no in a National Labor Relations Board election.

Volkswagen auto plant worker Duke Brandon, right, celebrates after employees voted to join the UAW union on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Both parties have five business days to file objections to the election, the NLRB said. If there are not, the elections will be approved and VW and the union must ‘begin to negotiate in good faith’.

President Joe Biden, who endorsed the UAW and won the endorsement, said the union’s victory follows major union gains across the country, including actors, longshoremen, Teamsters members, writers and health care workers.

“Together, these union victories have helped raise wages and demonstrated once again that the middle class built America and that unions continue to build and expand the middle class for all workers,” he said in a statement late Friday.

In recent years, workers at the Chattanooga plant have twice rejected union membership. Most recently, she handed the UAW a narrow defeat in 2019 while federal prosecutors were breaking up a bribery and embezzlement scandal at the union.

Volkswagen auto plant worker Duke Brandon, right, hugs Vicky Holloway as they watch the results of a UAW union vote late Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Volkswagen auto plant worker Duke Brandon, right, hugs Vicky Holloway as they watch the results of a UAW union vote late Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

But this time they voted convincingly for the UAW, which is operating under new leadership elected directly by its members for the first time and basking in a successful showdown with Detroit’s major automakers.

That of the union combative new president, Shawn Fain, was elected on a platform of cleaning up after the scandal and becoming more confrontational with automakers. An emboldened Fain, backed by Biden, led the union in a series of strikes against Detroit automakers last fall, resulting in lucrative new contracts.

The new contracts increased union wages by a significant third, giving Fain and his organizers tempting new offers for workers at Volkswagen and other companies.

Volkswagen auto plant worker Kiara Hughes celebrates after employees voted to join the UAW union Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Volkswagen auto plant worker Kiara Hughes celebrates after employees voted to join the UAW union Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The next candidates for a union vote are workers at Mercedes plants near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who will vote on UAW representation in May.

Fain said he was not surprised by the size of the union’s victory Friday after its two previous defeats.

“I think that’s the reality of where we are now and the times we’re in,” he said Friday evening. “Workers are tired of being left behind.”

The victory, he said, will help growing union organizing efforts in the rest of the country.

Volkswagen auto plant worker Vicky Holloway becomes emotional as she celebrates after workers voted to join the UAW union on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Volkswagen auto plant worker Vicky Holloway becomes emotional as she celebrates after workers voted to join the UAW union on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

“This gives employees everywhere else the indication that things are OK,” Fain said. “All we’ve been hearing for years is that we can’t win here, you can’t do that in the South, and you can.”

Worker Vicky Holloway of Chattanooga was among dozens of cheering workers celebrating at an electrical workers union hall near the VW plant. She said the overwhelming vote for the union this time came because her colleagues realized they could get better working conditions and a voice in the workplace.

“We have nothing to say at this point,” said Holloway, who worked at the plant for 13 years and was there for the union’s previous losses. “It’s like our opinions don’t matter.”

In a statement, Volkswagen thanked workers for their votes and said 83.5% of its 4,300 production workers cast their votes in the election.

Six Southern governors, including Bill Lee of Tennessee, warned workers in a joint statement this week that joining the UAW could cost them their jobs and threaten the region’s economic progress.

But the landslide victory is a warning to non-union manufacturers, said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who studies the union.

“This is going to send a strong message to all those companies that the UAW is knocking on the door, and if they don’t want to remain unionized, they need to step up their game,” Masters said.

Employees at Volkswagen auto plants celebrate winning a vote to join the UAW union on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Employees at Volkswagen auto plants celebrate winning a vote to join the UAW union on Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

He expects other non-union automakers will become more aggressive at the plants, and anti-union politicians will step up their efforts to fight the union.

Shortly after the Detroit contracts were ratified, Volkswagen and other non-union companies gave their workers large raises.

Last fall, Volkswagen raised wages for production workers by 11%, bringing the base wage to $32.40 per hour, or just over $67,000 per year. VW said his pay is higher than the median household income for the Chattanooga region, which was $54,480 last May, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But under UAW contracts, for example, top production workers at GM now earn $36 an hour, or about $75,000 a year, before benefits and profit sharing. By the end of the contract in 2028, top GM employees would earn more than $89,000.

Volkswagen auto plant worker Robert Crump, left, hi-fives colleague Kelvin Allen as they view the results of a UAW union vote late Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Volkswagen auto plant worker Robert Crump, left, hi-fives colleague Kelvin Allen as they view the results of a UAW union vote late Friday, April 19, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The VW plant will be the first to represent the UAW in a foreign-owned auto plant in the South. However, it won’t be the first union auto assembly plant in the South. The UAW represents workers at two Ford assembly plants in Kentucky and two GM plants in Tennessee and Texas, as well as some heavy-duty truck plants.

More than thirty years ago, the UAW was also located at a Volkswagen plant in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh. VW closed the factory that made small cars in the late 1980s.

___

Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press journalist Chris Megerian contributed from Washington.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar
Ad Clicks : Ad Views :