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UAW may have had international help in Chattanooga

By   /   January 22, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

AP photo

ARE THEY DEFEATED?: The United Auto Workers labor union may not be done with its effort to organize workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Members of the National Right to Work Foundation believe two German labor groups have failed to completely disclose their full level of involvement in the United Auto Workers’ attempts to set up shop in Chattanooga.

As previously reported, the UAW wants to formally establish itself at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant. 

The UAW’s attempts have so far been unsuccessful. VW workers, by a tally of 712-626, for instance, voted in February not to join the UAW. 

Members of the NRTW represent an unspecified number of VW workers who oppose the union.

They say that VW’s Global Works Council and IG Metall, a German autoworker union, prominently supported the UAW’s organizing drive — except for one key area.

“Neither organization divulged the extent of their involvement in Chattanooga to the Department of Labor, despite the fact that their high-profile support for the UAW should have triggered disclosure requirements,” according to an NRWF statement.

NRTW members say they have already sent off a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Labor to learn of any undisclosed communications with either group.

Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Labor's website

Thomas Perez

“Foundation staff attorneys hope to determine if the Department of Labor is actively assisting these organizations in their efforts to unionize VW’s Chattanooga facilities,” the NRTW statement continued.

Members of the United Auto Workers’ Detroit office did not immediately return Tennessee Watchdog’s request for comment Wednesday.

Representatives from Volkswagen and the Department of Labor also did not return requests for comment.

Contact information for IG Metall’s U.S. representatives, if there are any, was not immediately available.

The Department of Labor has yet to provide any documents, said NRTW spokesman Will F. Collins.

“Typically under American labor law, if you are actively involved in a unionization drive for or against you have to disclose the extent of your involvement,” Collins said.

“These are foreign companies, but they are involved in an American unionization drive at an American facility.”

NRTW President Mark Mix asked in November that Labor Secretary Thomas Perez require both German organizations to comply with American labor law and disclose their relationship to the UAW, Collins said.

Perez has so far not responded to Mix’s letter, and there is no record of either of the two German labor organizations filing the mandated disclosure reports, Collins said.

Talks between UAW and VW workers had revolved around whether the union could form what has been known as a European-style works council, which no other U.S. automobile factory has. Some say that’s tantamount to having a union.

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

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

The NRTW has already accused the National Labor Relations Board, under President Obama, of a heavy bias in siding with unions over individuals bringing charges against them. 

NRTW spokesman Patrick Semmens said last year the NLRB — under the Obama’s administration — has given unions more control over the timing of elections and encouraged more aggressive pro-union policies.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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Chris formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.