Volkswagen to Appeal NLRB Ruling on Tennessee Union Election

  • Plea to court follows rejection this month by U.S. labor board
  • UAW won December vote to represent plant's maintenance workers

Volkswagen AG said it plans a court appeal of a U.S. labor board’s decision that allowed a union representation election for a portion of the workforce at the automaker’s Tennessee factory.

The National Labor Relations Board earlier this month rejected Volkswagen’s appeal of a December election in which maintenance workers at the Chattanooga plant voted 108-44 for representation by the United Auto Workers union, saying those employees are “readily identifiable as a group.” The company has contended that any union-represented unit at the plant should include both maintenance and production workers.

“We are disappointed that the NLRB declined to fully evaluate this important question,” Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson said Monday in an e-mail. “Therefore, Volkswagen will take the necessary steps to have this issue reviewed by a federal court of appeal.”

A local union at the Tennessee factory could add to Volkswagen’s challenges as it faces fallout from its emissions-cheating scandal, priced at about $18.2 billion in costs. The Detroit-based UAW’s long-term effort to represent all hourly workers at the plant continues even after the union lost a factorywide election in 2014.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said in a statement Monday that the union asked the NLRB to issue an unfair labor practice complaint against Volkswagen.

“We reject the company’s claim that recognizing and bargaining with the skilled-trades employees would somehow splinter the workforce in Chattanooga,” he said. “At a time when Volkswagen already has run afoul of the federal and state governments in the emissions-cheating scandal, we’re disappointed that the company now is choosing to thumb its nose at the federal government over U.S. labor law.”

Casteel called the planned court appeal a “stall tactic” and said Volkswagen plants outside the U.S. recognize multiple unions that represent parts of a workforce.

Wilson, the company spokesman, said that “Volkswagen respects the right of all of our employees to decide the question of union representation. This is why we disagree with the decision to separate Volkswagen maintenance and production workers and will continue our effort to allow everyone to vote as one group on the matter of union representation.”

Reuters reported on the company’s decision earlier Monday.

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