You didn't think that you'd heard the last of union talk at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga, TN, just because workers voted not to join the United Auto Workers, did you? Of course not. And this latest tidbit is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows, as it came straight from Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's works council in Germany.
In other words, VW's works council, which has to approve any new plants before they can be built, may block further expansion in southern US states due to the area's apparent anti-union stance. If you're wondering why Osterloh – the same VW executive who called its US operations "a disaster" – is still talking about union representation, despite the plant's workers voting not to join, here's the answer: "The conservatives stirred up massive, anti-union sentiments. It's possible that the conclusion will be drawn that this interference amounted to unfair labor praxis."
I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again. ... If co-determination isn't guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor [of another VW plant in the southern US].
That anti-union interference can at least in part be directed to US Senator Bob Corker, who, on the first day of voting, said that he has been "assured" by Volkswagen that if the Chattanooga plant voted against UAW unionization, it would get a new midsize crossover to build, likely a production version of the CrossBlue Concept. Other elected Republicans, such as state senator Bo Watson and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, also publicly warned that the plant may lose out on state incentives if it were unionized.
It's also worth noting that any interference with plant workers' right "to choose whether or not to engage in self-organization to form, join, or assist labor organizations" is likely illegal under federal law, although it certainly sounds like plenty of interference has already taken place from both pro- and anti-union sides alike. This being the case, another vote in Chattanooga is certainly a distinct possibility.
In any case, we're quite sure that we've not yet heard the last from Volkswagen, the UAW or Tennessee lawmakers on the issue of unionization in Chattanooga, which, as has been widely reported already, is the only VW plant in the world that isn't represented by a union.