Things initially looked promising for the United Auto Worker’s prospects at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, with VW management inviting the organization in directly to talk to workers about the “works council” concept implemented at other Volkswagen plants worldwide. However, political pressure from national and local politicians, as well as the threat of withdrawing tax incentives for the plant’s expansion to build a second model proved too great an obstacle for the UAW to overcome, with the final vote for representation coming down 712 to 626 against the UAW, according to reports from the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Reuters.
Although the UAW conceded defeat in the initial vote, aggressive lobbying by state officials, including former Chattanooga Mayor and current U.S. Senator Bob Corker, raised some red flags for UAW officials, who promise to continue their organization efforts at other plants in the south, with the next focused effort being the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Despite the defeat of the UAW in being the official labor representatives of the Chattanooga workers, some workers, including those who voted against UAW representation, see value in the “works council” model used in VW’s factories in Germany, most of which are organized by German labor union IG Metall.
UAW president Bob King said he was “outraged” by the active anti-union lobbying by Corker and other state officials, which included threats of withdrawing state incentives for expansion of the plant to build the upcoming crossover model.