Workers at VW’s plant voted against forming union - GulfToday

Workers at VW’s plant voted against forming union

Volkswagen

A Volkswagon assembly plant in Berlin.

Workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted Friday night against forming a factory-wide union, handing a setback to the United Auto Workers’ efforts to gain a foothold among foreign auto facilities in the South.

The vote of hourly workers began Wednesday and concluded Friday. Preliminary results show 833 employees voted against representation and 776 voted for it, the German automaker said in a statement. VW said about 93% of the roughly 1,700 eligible employees voted.

“Our employees have spoken,” Frank Fischer, president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said in the company statement.

He said results are pending certification by the National Labor Relations Board and legal review. Fischer said the company looks forward to “continuing our close cooperation with elected officials and business leaders in Tennessee.” Volkswagen has union representation at all of its other major plants worldwide.

A win in Chattanooga would have offered the United Auto Workers its first fully organised, foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the traditionally anti-union South. UAW officials have questioned why Chattanooga should differ from Volkswagen’s other union-represented plants worldwide, or Spring Hill, Tennessee’s General Motors plant with 3,000 UAW-represented workers.

UAW organizing director Tracy Romero said she was proud of the pro-union voters at the plant.

“The company ran a brutal campaign of fear and misinformation,” Romero said in a statement, adding that the automaker tried to make workers afraid of losing the plant and suffer other repercussions.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, US Sen. Marsha Blackburn and other top Republicans urged a “no” vote, saying a union could cause economic harm. Blackburn said attempts to unionize will harm workers, adding, “We don’t need union bosses in Detroit telling Tennessee what’s best for our workers.” In April, Gov. Bill Lee drew cheers and jeers when he told VW employees in a closed-door meeting that he believes “when I have a direct relationship with you, the worker, and you’re working for me, that is when the environment works the best,” according to a recording obtained by Labor Notes, a pro-union publication.

In 2014, Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga voted 712-626 against unionization through the Detroit-based UAW, heeding the advice of then-U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, then-Gov. Bill Haslam and other GOP officials who urged a “no” vote.

During that election, Corker waited until voting had actually started at the plant in his hometown when he all but guaranteed that the company would announce within two weeks of a union rejection that it would build a new midsized SUV at its only US factory, instead of sending the work to Mexico.

Volkswagen announced a new SUV would be produced in Chattanooga five months after the vote, essentially confirming Corker’s prediction but on a different timeline.

UAW claimed “interference by politicians and outside special interest groups” swayed the 2014 election. The union ultimately dropped an appeal of that vote After the loss, a smaller bloc of Chattanooga workers voted for union representation in 2015, but Volkswagen refused to bargain with them unless all hourly workers had a vote. Instead of dragging out the fight over the smaller group, the union was granted this week’s vote.

Other than the smaller vote at Chattanooga, the UAW has not fully organised a foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the South. A 2017 vote at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, failed by a wide margin.

Even with recent losses at VW and Nissan, the UAW won’t stop trying to organise assembly plants in the South owned by international automakers, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of labour, industry and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“It’s never the end,” she said before the vote. “Win or lose, it’s hard to organise.” Union organizing is more difficult in the South because it doesn’t have the pro-union culture of the north, and because politicians and other third parties often campaign against the union, she said.

A big Volkswagen project is now looming for Chattanooga: An $800 million expansion is expected to create 1,000 jobs for electric vehicle production beginning in 2022. It’s set to receive $50 million in state incentives.

The state’s economic development department has received no indication that the project would somehow hinge on the union vote, said department spokesman Scott Harrison.

UAW is calling on Congress to take a comprehensive look at the country’s labour laws and NLRB rules following the vote, the union said in its statement.

CFM International has caught up with delays in deliveries of its LEAP jet engine after keeping its assembly lines running at high speed while the Boeing 737 MAX remains grounded, the French-American engine maker said on Saturday.

The LEAP engine helped Boeing and European rival Airbus upgrade their most important single-aisle models, leading to the development of the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320neo, which is also powered by the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan.

CFM officials said ahead of the Paris Airshow that the engine maker had been able to absorb earlier delays in production during the grounding of the 737 MAX. CFM had already closed a gap in engine production for the Airbus A320neo.

While Boeing has cut output of the 737 MAX to 42 aircraft a month from 52 and deferred a planned rate of 57, Airbus continues to produce at 60 with plans to go to 63 in 2021.

Airbus sales chief Christian Scherer said on Friday there was room for higher production. Industry sources say Airbus has been studying future output of around 71 a month to meet demand.

Such a move depends chiefly on the willingness of engine makers to take the risk of stretching already tight supply chains.

“We always want to commit on things we are sure we are going to accomplish,” CFM Chief Executive Gael Meheust told reporters.

“We would be very uncomfortable in committing to something that we are not completely sure of, and right now we are not sure that the supply chain is capable of doing more than it is doing today.”

Reuters