That was quick. Earlier this month the United Auto Workers Local 42 union at the Chattanooga, TN, Volkswagen plant voted to approve collective bargaining. However, when the union tried to sit down to work out a contract, VW refused. In response, a report in the Wall Street Journal says the UAW has gone to the National Labor Relations Board to file a charge of unfair labor practices, saying, "Volkswagen has refused to come to the bargaining table in violation of federal law."

Getting a UAW presence at the plant, even a small one, was a major coup for union leaders, and Local 42 is a contentious issue at the facility. Formed last year and composed of about 150 skilled workers who repair and maintain the factory robots (out of about 1,400 total workers) VW challenged the establishment of Local 42 to the NLRB on the grounds that it didn't want two groups of workers with different rights and representation. The NLRB decided against VW, which led to the vote on collective bargaining.

VW is appealing the NLRB decision, and it likely wants to wait for the appeal process to conclude before entering contract discussions. The carmaker isn't against having a union at the plant, but it wants one group to represent all of its hourly and salaried employees along the lines of the Works Council model used in factories in Germany. A labor attorney told the Journal that the Union's quick movement on this "may be an attempt to pressure VW not to challenge the bargaining unit in any way and to generate adverse publicity for VW, so that the UAW can get a contract sooner, rather than in several years."

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