Tennessee Volkswagen workers ask for UAW representation vote

Workers at a Volkswagen manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, the UAW announced Tuesday.

The move could make the Tennessee plant the first to join the UAW since the union earned pay raises and benefit increases for its members in a strike against the “Big Three” automakers last year.

“I come from a UAW family, so I’ve seen how having our union enables us to make life better on the job and off,” plant employee Yolanda Peoples said in a statement. “We are a positive force in the plant. When we win our union, we’ll be able to bargain for a safer workplace, so people can stay on the job and the company can benefit from our experience. When my father retired as a UAW member, he had something to fall back on. VW workers deserve the same.”

UAW has made a push into non-union manufacturing facilities, especially in the South, in a bid to expand its membership and influence. The union has launched an organizing effort at a Tuscaloosa, Ala., Mercedes-Benz manufacturer and an Alabama Hyundai plant.

The union began its membership effort at the VW plant in December and reached 50 percent membership early last month. It previously announced that workers would file for an election when 70 percent of facility employees signed union cards.

Workers at the same Chattanooga plant, VW’s only American facility, previously filed for a UAW election in 2014 and 2019 but failed each time.

Once an election is organized by the NLRB, a majority of the plant’s approximately 4,000 workers must vote in favor of the union to form it. A date for the election has not been set.

The NLRB said it will hold a pre-election hearing over the plant’s case on March 26, The Associated Press reported.

Volkswagen said it respects the legal election process.

“We respect our workers’ right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests,” The company said in a statement. “We will fully support an NLRB vote so every team member has a chance to vote in privacy in this important decision.”

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