UAW president reportedly confident union will be in Tennessee this summer


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The United Auto Workers will secure a place at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant by June, union President Bob King asserted to a German newspaper recently — but can his actions back up his boasting?

For the time being, King’s remarks amount to nothing more than pure talk, said National Right to Work Foundation spokesman Patrick Semmens.

The NRTW has filed charges against the UAW with the National Labor Relations Board, reportedly on behalf of eight VW employees.

“Bob King has been making claims like this for a while, but if he really believed it he would have filed for an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election months ago,” Semmens said in an e-mail to Tennessee Watchdog.

“Instead he continues to be in ‘working with’ VW company officials, presumably negotiating a deal with the company that will help push the UAW on Chattanooga VW employees.”

According to Reuters, King told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he believes VW wants a union.

“We are also working well with the company. VW has been very fair in its dealings with us and wants its employees to have a voice,” King reportedly said.

UAW officials didn’t return Tennessee Watchdog’s request for comment before Wednesday’s publication time.

Bob King’s Legacy?

NRTW attorneys have filed two sets of charges against the UAW, Semmens said, adding the union misled workers about its intentions by handing out cards with out-of-date information.

“The eight allege that union officials lied to them, claiming that signing union cards did not count as a vote to join. In fact, the cards were presented by the union to the company as proof the workers wanted to organize,” the Washington Examiner reported.

“The second round was against VW for statements by company officials in Germany that illegally threaten workers if they don’t support the union,” Semmens told Tennessee Watchdog.

A member of VW’s board of supervisors commented many times that VW could start building a brand new SUV at the Chattanooga plant. VW, Semmens quoted the board member as saying, would only add the SUV to the assembly line if Chattanooga employees unionized.

“That, we believe, is not legal,” Semmens said last year.

“The NLRB is currently investigating both charges, but they have yet to act,” Semmens said Wednesday.

No one from either VW or the NLRB returned Tennessee Watchdog’s requests for comment Wednesday.

As Tennessee Watchdog previously reported, talks between the UAW and Volkswagen revolve around whether the UAW should form what has thus far been known as a European-style works council.

According to Semmens, no U.S. automobile factory has a works council, composed of employees representing a workforce in discussions with their employers.

Depending on whom you ask, a works council is also one of two other things — a prelude to forming an actual union or, as Semmens said, no different from already having one.

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

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

If it can establish itself at VW Chattanooga, the UAW would have a presence at a foreign-owned automobile manufacturing plant for the first time in more than 20 years.

“Given the statements by King about unionizing a Southern auto plant before he steps down as the head of the UAW, it seems clear that the push in Chattanooga is more about his legacy in Detroit than what workers at VW really want,” Semmens said.

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