November 20, 2015
Applying the National Labor Relations Board's new election rules, NLRB Regional Director Claude T. Harrell rejected Volkswagen Group of America's objections this week and ordered a representation election of the company's Chattanooga maintenance employees, who constitute only 10 percent of the overall workforce at the facility. The election, which was requested by United Auto Workers (UAW), is scheduled to proceed on December 3 and conclude the following day. Volkswagen, which has remained neutral on unionization of the entire facility, will now need to decide whether to challenge Harrell's decision to the Board in Washington. Under the new expedited election rules, this is very difficult to achieve prior to an election being held. It is more likely that the Board would order the election to proceed and then consider the challenge later if the union wins. In ruling in favor of the union, Harrell relied on the Board's controversial 2011 Specialty Healthcare decision, finding that the maintenance workers do not have "an overwhelming community of interest" with the production workers. A VW spokesperson simply said, "The company is reviewing the content of the Regional Director's decision and is considering its options." UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said it is "unfortunate that, in the middle of Volkswagen's widening emissions scandal, we had to spend weeks debating workers' rights that clearly are protected under federal law. . . Looking ahead, our hope is that the company now will recommit to the values that made Volkswagen a great brand—environmental sustainability and true co-determination between management and employees." In a related matter, the UAW announced November 19 it has entered into a partnership with German union IG Metall in a move aimed at bolstering the union’s representation of employees at German-owned auto plants and parts suppliers in the South.