Volkswagen, UAW Spar Over 2014 Recognition Agreement

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By Michael Rose

June 22 — The United Auto Workers has for the first time released an agreement it signed in 2014 with Volkswagen AG that the union said shows the company reneged on a promise to recognize the UAW at the automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The release of the document is the latest step in the UAW's yearslong effort to represent workers at the Volkswagen plant. Although a portion of the workers chose UAW representation late last year, no contract is in place and the issue of union representation at the plant remains contentious.

In an extensive statement provided to Bloomberg BNA June 22, Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of its transnational department, pointed to a “10-Point Agreement,” signed in 2014 by former UAW President Bob King and Horst Neumann, former head of global human relations at Volkswagen.

According to Casteel, the agreement provided that the union would drop its objections to a 2014 representation election in which production and maintenance workers at the Chattanooga plant voted against UAW representation, but that Volkswagen would “recognize the union as the representative of its members” at the facility.

2014 Agreement in German

The agreement is written in German, and an English translation wasn't immediately available.

The UAW has sought to organize workers at the Volkswagen plant for years. Since the 2014 election loss, the union has stepped up its efforts, and it claims that a majority of workers at the facility support the union.

More recently, a smaller group of maintenance workers at the plant voted in favor of UAW representation in December 2015. The company has refused to bargain with that group, arguing in various filings with the National Labor Relations Board that any bargaining unit in Chattanooga must include both production and maintenance workers.

UAW: Only Plant Globally Lacking Representation

The UAW has repeatedly called on Volkswagen to bargain with the smaller unit, but the company has refused to do so. Volkswagen has said it intends to appeal in federal court the board's ordering of an election for the maintenance workers, and the NLRB has issued an unfair labor practice complaint against the company.

In order for the proceedings to move to a federal appeals court, the NLRB must first rule that the company committed an unfair labor practice.

“In Volkswagen’s public statements, it has falsely suggested that the company cannot effectively bargain with multiple employee representation groups in Chattanooga,” Casteel said. “But the reality is: Volkswagen deals effectively with multiple employee groups in other plants all over the world. Meanwhile, Chattanooga is Volkswagen’s only plant in the world that does not offer meaningful employee representation.”

Company Says Contract Doesn't Exist

In a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA June 22, Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson said there is “no contract with the UAW.”

“We reached a consensus with them on how to proceed after the initial vote,” Wilson said. “This consensus is reflected in the COE policy (Community Organization Engagement Policy), which we have long communicated publicly. This arrangement provides various employee organizations with the opportunity to represent the interests of the employees in Chattanooga.”

The COE policy was announced in November 2014 and provides for different levels of management-employee engagement of employee groups that show support among the Chattanooga workforce. The UAW was recognized under that policy, as was the American Council of Employees, a group of workers opposed to UAW representation.

“In short, it is our aim, that the workforce at the plant in Chattanooga should not be divided,” Wilson said. “The arrangement for representing the interests of employees at the Chattanooga plant, the COE, offers employee organizations the opportunity to represent the interests of their members. This arrangement has been and remains an excellent way for deepening the dialogue with employee organizations.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Rose in Washington at mrose@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information

Text of Casteel's statement and the 10-Point Agreement is available at http://src.bna.com/gaS.

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