UAW coming to Chattanooga VW, despite getting thumbs down from workers


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — A majority of Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga told the United Auto Workers union earlier this year it’s not wanted there, but union officials aren’t getting the message.

UAW officials announced Monday the formation of UAW Local 42, which they say will represent Chattanooga VW employees using what they call a “works council” approach.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported earlier this year, a works council is a European-style form of organizing, which some people say is the same as having a union.


A union isn’t legally required for the type of activity that goes on in works councils, at least not in the United States.

“No employees will be required to join,” according to a UAW news release put out Thursday.

Patrick Semmens, spokesman for the Virginia-based National Right to Work Foundation, which previously represented the interests of several Chattanooga VW employees who didn’t wish to join the union, said the UAW has an ulterior motive.

“It’s in part designed to deliberately confuse the people of Chattanooga and the people in this plant,” Semmens said. “A lot of times the UAW wants people to feel peer pressure. ‘Oh well, they’re already in place. I may as well join them because every one else is, already.’”

Semmens talked to Tennessee Watchdog on Thursday, before a UAW press conference where many details were unveiled.

“These people said from the beginning that they weren’t going away,” Semmens said.

UAW officials didn’t immediately return Tennessee Watchdog’s requests for comment Thursday, while VW spokesman Scott Wilson had little to say.

“Just like anywhere else in the world, the establishment of a local organization is a matter for the trade union concerned,” Wilson said. “There is no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter.”

The UAW tried earlier this year to appeal its failed attempt to organize at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.

In its filing, the UAW specifically mentioned what it called outside third parties, specifically elected Tennessee Republican officials such as U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who publicly spoke out against the union.

In turn, the NRWF filed a motion to intervene in the situation on behalf of five Chattanooga VW workers who participated in this month’s vote, which went against the UAW by a tally of 712 to 626.

The UAW may not legally attempt another vote at the plant until at least early next year.

Tennessee is a right-to-work state, meaning workers can’t be fired for not joining the UAW and paying union dues.

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