WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI), Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Sherrod Brown (OH) are expressing concerns and requesting more information from Volkswagen (VW) following the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) recent decision to grant Volkswagen’s request to halt all election proceedings for workers petitioning to organize with the United Auto Workers (UAW) at a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In their letter to VW CEO Scott Keogh, the Senators urge VW to ensure any election is free and fair, and they ask a number of questions regarding the current situation.
“We are writing to express our deep concern with delays to an election on union representation for maintenance and production workers at Volkswagen’s manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee,” the Senators wrote. “Workers have a fundamental right to choose whether they have union representation in the workplace. Any delay in the election further enables anti-union campaigns to target and intimidate workers and violate that fundamental right, and we urge you to immediately drop any efforts to oppose or postpone the election of a union in the Chattanooga plant.”
This decision follows ongoing efforts to organize at the Chattanooga plant including an attempt made in December 2015 with 160 skilled trade maintenance workers who voted to unionize and affiliate with the UAW. Following the vote, VW refused to bargain with the UAW, stating the unit needed to include both skilled trade maintenance workers and production workers. This led the UAW to file a charge to the NLRB on Volkswagen’s refusal to bargain. Last April, the UAW withdrew the pending charges with the NLRB, clearing the way for workers to file a new petition to involve both skilled trade maintenance and production workers. Earlier this month, the NLRB dismissed the refusal to bargain charge against VW and also gave no indication as to when the halt on the union certification will be lifted.
A copy of the Senators’ letter may be found below or by clicking here.
CEO and President
Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
2200 Ferdinand Porsche Dr.
Herndon, VA 20171
Dear President Keogh:
We are writing to express our deep concern with delays to an election on union representation for maintenance and production workers at Volkswagen’s manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Workers have a fundamental right to choose whether they have union representation in the workplace. Any delay in the election further enables anti-union campaigns to target and intimidate workers and violate that fundamental right, and we urge you to immediately drop any efforts to oppose or postpone the election of a union in the Chattanooga plant.
Volkswagen has stated that it is neutral on whether or not its Chattanooga workers are represented by a union, but your company’s actions suggest otherwise. Your company has filed a stay of all election procedures for an indefinite period of time, which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) granted on May 3, 2019. In addition, we have heard that facility supervisors in Chattanooga are engaging in direct anti-union conversations with workers in the workplace, including pulling workers off the production line to ask if they support the union. We’ve also heard that your company is remedying workers’ grievances through steps such as increasing bonuses and changing work schedules. These are not neutral actions.
Your company opposed the maintenance workers’ 2015 request for a union election because in your view the only appropriate collective bargaining unit for the plant was a wall-to-wall unit of all production and maintenance workers. Now that the United Auto Workers (UAW) has filed a petition to hold an election for the wall-to-wall production and maintenance unit, your company’s concerns on that matter have been addressed. An election victory for the UAW would ensure the Chattanooga facility has wall-to-wall union representation, just like Volkswagen’s employees at all of its other facilities around the world.
To better understand Volkswagen’s position on the election of union representation at the Chattanooga plant and to learn more about the company’s efforts to ensure any election is free and fair, we request that you respond within 7 days to the following inquiries.
- Volkswagen has publicly stated its neutral position on union representation for workers since 2014, but that neutral position has not been well-known by workers in the plant. What is Volkswagen doing to communicate its position of neutrality directly to the production and maintenance employees?
- Volkswagen has continuously opposed the unionizing of the maintenance workers by the UAW since 2015 because the company stated that the only appropriate union is one that represents all maintenance and production employees. Is it still Volkswagen’s position that a bargaining unit for the Chattanooga factory should include maintenance and production employees?
- Volkswagen’s lawyers have argued that the NLRB should dismiss the current petition seeking a wall-to-wall unit of production and maintenance workers because of the prior certification of the maintenance unit. However, the NLRB agreed to revoke the certification of the maintenance workers’ union following the decision to grant the UAW and NLRB Region 10’s motion to dismiss the pending failure to bargain unfair labor practice charges related to that unit. Does Volkswagen still believe the wall-to-wall unit petition should be dismissed? If not, why has Volkswagen not withdrawn its request to stay all election proceedings? If so, what is Volkswagen’s reasoning?
- Is Volkswagen aware of any other entities that are communicating to the production and maintenance workers? If so, who are those entities? If not, what is Volkswagen doing to determine whether there are any other entities who might be interfering in a union election?
- Has Volkswagen retained any outside firms or consultants to communicate workers about the UAW, a union election, or unions in general? If so, please identify the name(s) of such firm(s) and consultant(s).
- We have heard reports that Volkswagen supervisors are pulling employees off the production line to question them on their union support. Are these actions sanctioned by Volkswagen leadership? If not, what is VW leadership doing to prevent this type of interference in the unionizing process?
- We have heard that supervisors are reading anti-union messages to workers before the start of their shift. Are these messages sanctioned by Volkswagen leadership? If not, what is Volkswagen leadership doing to prevent this interference in the unionizing process?
- Please describe Volkswagen leadership’s communication with supervisors and managers at the Chattanooga plant regarding the unionizing effort. Has Volkswagen given instructions to supervisors and managers about how to communicate with maintenance and production employees about the unionizing effort? If not, why not? If so, do the communications explicitly instruct managers and supervisors to represent Volkswagen’s position as neutral and only neutral on union representation of the workers?
- We have been informed that there are anti-union publicity campaigns occurring outside the facility as well, including on billboards and social media. Has Volkswagen attempted to identify the organizations behind those public campaigns? If so, please identify the organization(s) you believe to be responsible for the public campaigns. If not, does Volkswagen support the existence of these campaigns?
- Are you aware that filing the motion to stay processing of the petition for a wall-to-wall production and maintenance unit delays the union election date for the production and maintenance workers and gives more time for anti-union advocates to intimidate and harass your employees?
- Why is Volkswagen so focused on preventing its workers from voting when the company would retain the right to raise any NLRA concerns it may have after the election?