After years of failure in unionizing auto factories owned by foreign carmakers, the United Auto Workers might be poised for its first major victory. Volkswagen employees at the company's assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN, will vote in a secret ballot sometime between February 12 and 14 on whether to form a German-style works council with the UAW, according to a statement from VW in The Detroit News. It is currently the only Volkswagen plant worldwide that is not represented by a union.
"Volkswagen Group of America and the UAW have agreed to this common path for the election. That means employees can decide on representation in a secret ballot election, independently conducted by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board]," said Frank Fischer, chairman and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga, in the statement to the newspaper.
If unionized, the Chattanooga factory would be the first in the US to be arranged under a German-style works council where white- and blue-collar workers directly negotiate factory issues with the company's management. It would also become a member of VW's Global Works Council, which is an international organization of the largest of VW's labor unions that sets minimum standards for work relations at VW factories.
The process of unionization officially began in September when a majority of workers signed cards agreeing to join the UAW. However, the first rumors about organizing go back to 2011, and the process has been moving steadily since the summer of 2013. Tennessee is not generally seen as a union stronghold, but it appears that VW workers may be willing to try something different.