Report: Volkswagen Coercing Chattanooga Workers to Unionize?

Volkswagen is allegedly persuading workers to agree to UAW representation at its Chattanooga plant.

Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, TN, is facing legal trouble as four workers have filed charges claiming that Volkswagen officials are persuading them to agree to be represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, according to a Reuters report.

The plant, which currently builds the Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan, has been slated to take on more Volkswagen models in the future, but officials reportedly will not consider expanding production until workers accept the UAW representation. Future Volkswagen models in consideration for the Chattanooga plant include the upcoming Crossblue seven-seat SUV and a possible smaller crossover.

Volkswagen reportedly wants the plant to adopt a German-style representation, with a system called a “works council” that is already in place at all of its other plants around the world. Because of U.S. labor laws, a council like this must be recognized through a U.S. trade union like the UAW. The four workers filing charges, though, allege that because officials say additional production is dependent on whether workers agree to the UAW, Volkswagen is removing the worker’s right to choose whether or not to join labor organizations.

This is strangely converse from issues that other foreign manufacturers have faced in their U.S. production facilities, such as Nissan’s alleged anti-union activity that we reported on last year. Nissan maintains, though, that the majority of its employees remain opposed to the UAW’s presence in its Canton, MI, and Smyrna, TN plants.

The head of Volkswagen’s global works council Bernd Osterloh told Reuters last week that a works council would be important for expansion at the Chattanooga plant, but Volkswagen has not yet made an official comment on these recent charges. We will see how the situation develops as the National Labor Relations Board reviews the allegations against Volkswagen.

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