DETROIT, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Volkswagen AG opposes a union representation vote by a portion of workers at the automaker’s sole U.S. vehicle assembly plant, according to a letter to Chattanooga, Tennessee, employees issued Monday night.
Volkswagen has been the most open to the United Auto Workers (UAW) union among foreign manufacturers with assembly plants in the southern United States. But the company said the timing was bad, a reference to its diesel emissions scandal, and that it does not want the UAW to pare off a portion of the plant’s workers for representation.
The U.S. National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing Tuesday morning in Chattanooga to gather information before deciding whether to allow the UAW’s petition to hold an election for about 165 skilled trades workers. The workers maintain the production machinery for the remainder of the plant’s 1,500 workers who make Passat sedans.
“While the company remains neutral in regards to our employees’ right to representation and an election, we believe that the maintenance-only unit requested in the petition is not consistent with our One Team approach,” according to a letter from the company to plant workers that was obtained by Reuters.
The United Auto Workers filed for an election by the skilled trades workers on Oct. 23. The union lost an election by 712-to-626 in February 2014 to represent all hourly production workers at the plant.
Federal law allows a portion of a work location to be represented by a union, the UAW said, but VW said the union’s petition counters “long-established NLRB law.”
The UAW has worked closely with the German union IG Metall and taken advantage of that union’s strength within the company to open the door to organize the Chattanooga plant. That would give it a toehold in the U.S. South, where it has faced stiff opposition from other foreign companies and anti-union U.S. politicians and lobbying groups.
In a letter to plant workers on Oct. 23, the head of the Chattanooga plant, Christian Koch, and the head of human resources, Sebastian Patta, said, “The company finds the timing of this development unfortunate, given the challenges we are facing.” (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)