Will Big Labor’s Chattanooga Power Grab Succeed?

Union Bigwigs Want VW to Ignore Worker Vote Against UAW Monopoly

(Source: the January 2015 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)

It’s been less than a year since a clear majority of the front-line employees at the Volkswagen (VW) plant located in Chattanooga, Tenn., voted against handing United Auto Workers (UAW) union bosses monopoly power to bargain with their employer on matters related to pay, benefits, and work rules.

201501-nl-vwBy casting their ballots against “exclusive representation” by UAW officials, VW production employees opted to retain the labor policy, in effect since the plant’s opening in 2010, under which any worker is free to discuss his or her views on compensation and work-rule issues with managers. Managers are similarly free to listen, respond, and act on what they hear.

Union Bosses Insist VW Has Secretly Agreed to Hand Workers Over to Them

Had UAW officials been certified as employees’ monopoly-bargaining agent, any manager who had dealings with employees regarding their complaints about UAW policies would have been potentially culpable of an “unfair labor practice” for which VW could have been branded as a lawbreaker.

But thanks to workers’ secret-ballot vote, supporters and opponents of the UAW union, as well as fence-sitters, remain free to communicate back and forth with VW management.

This does not sit well with UAW union President Dennis Williams and Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel.

UAW bosses are now unabashedly calling on VW executives to give the recently created UAW Local 42 “exclusive” negotiating privileges without a secret-ballot vote.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Casteel insist VW can legally do this because a putative majority of the company’s front-line employees are now Local 42 “members,” but many independent-minded workers at the facility strenuously contest this union-boss assertion.

And UAW bosses have definitely not made public any evidence whatsoever that what they claim is true.

Rather than appeal to workers, Mr. Casteel boasts that the union hierarchy is “in discussions with the company” regarding “what the pathway is to exclusive representation.”

It can and will happen virtually without employee input, Mr. Casteel insisted in a December interview with the Chattanooga TimesFree Press, citing a “commitment” VW allegedly made in Germany several months ago to “recognize the UAW” as employees’ monopoly-bargaining agent.

VW Executives Have Already Bent Over Backwards to Help UAW Union Organizers

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Mary King pointed out that Mr. Casteel’s contention that he and his cohorts have forged a secret deal with VW chiefs is at least somewhat credible, because the company has certainly bent over backwards to help UAW organizers in the past.

The company’s behavior during the run-up to last February’s up-or-down vote over UAW monopoly representation is illustrative, Ms. King added. (It is worth noting this vote occurred only after employees opposed to a union monopoly, assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, collected more than 600 signatures for a petition stating they did not want to have the UAW foisted on them.)

“Over the course of the nine days between when the election was announced and its onset,” Ms. King recalled, VW “‘allowed union activists to canvass inside the plant, while forbidding employees opposed to unionization an equal chance to argue the other side,’ as a Washington Times editorial reported at the time.

“Federal labor law clearly prohibits an employer from granting one side in a certification campaign access to its work areas, while denying access to the other. Some company executives were evidently willing to take the risk of being charged with violating the law in order to ensure a UAW victory.

“More recently, VW set up a rigged ‘certification’ process that supposedly confirmed at least 45% of Chattanooga’s production workers are union members, and thus entitled UAW officials to hold biweekly talks with top managers and be granted regular plant access.

“So far, however, VW executives have refused to acquiesce to UAW kingpins’ wishes that a similar process be used to make the union the sole spokesman for union members and nonmembers alike with regard to workplace policies.

“Of course, if such an anti-worker sweetheart deal is forged, Right to Work attorneys stand ready to help the many freedom-loving VW employees in Chattanooga fight back.”