Up to now, the United Auto Workers union has never been successful in organizing American employees of foreign automakers --“transnationals” in UAW parlance -- in the United States. Despite multiple attempts, with multiple automakers, the UAW has yet to be successful. According to a Reuters report, the UAW is now giving it another shot, this time trying to organize Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn. Factory.
In a speech made in Washington, D.C. this year, UAW President Bob King even went so far to say, “If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long-term future for the UAW. I really don’t.”
A few weeks ago, the UAW had made some progress in expanding its influence by partnering with international unions representing Chrysler and Fiat. Reuters reports that King met with head of German union IG Metall Berthold Huber and Volkswagen’s German works council head Bernd Osterloh to discuss unionization of VW’s Chattanooga factory. Volkswagen is seemingly in support of its factory unionizing, although not exclusively with the UAW. VW global works head Michael Riffel said to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, “For VW, it is a matter of course that its employees are unionized. [Unionizing with the UAW] is up to our colleagues in the United States.”
The UAW has tried organizing American workers at foreign factories in the past, most notably with Nissan and Toyota. Both times, the organization’s attempts have been met with failure. Its last effort, with Nissan in 2010 resulted in factory workers voting overwhelmingly against unionizing. At the time, a Nissan North America spokesperson said that Nissan’s workers didn’t need the UAW because they were offered fully competitive wages and had never laid off an employee in over 27 years of business in the U.S.