UAW Quietly Tips The Scales At VW Chattanooga, On Track To Unionize

UAW president Bob King met with VW officials in Germany two weeks ago. The company acknowledged talks with the union in a letter to employees this week. Credit: John Davis / UAW Local 2195

UAW president Bob King met with VW officials in Germany two weeks ago. The company acknowledged talks with the union in a letter to employees this week. Credit: John Davis / UAW Local 2195

A majority of the workers at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant have signed cards signaling they want union representation, according to the United Auto Workers. But so far, the UAW isn’t rushing the global automaker to meet them at a negotiating table.

UAW president Bob King said he’s being patient and that he has “deep respect” for VW, which recognizes unions in all of its major plants, except for Chattanooga.

“We’re very confident that we’ll work out a process to recognition and then bargaining what we both want, and that’s a works council-type system in the U.S.,” King said in a phone interview from Germany.

The UAW has been trying to shake its confrontational reputation. For the last decade, it’s been angling to get inside the plants of foreign automakers in the South. King said he hopes companies like Nissan and Toyota will see that the UAW isn’t the enemy.

“I think they have this wrong perception that if we get in, it’s going to be an adversarial relationship,” he said. “They’re going to see when workers’ choice is recognized at Volkswagen that we’re going to go in there in a very collaborative fashion.”

King says he anticipates negotiating pay, benefits and vacation on behalf of VW workers while setting up a so-called “works council” made up of hourly employees and management to establish work rules.

No timeline has been laid out, and VW officials are declining to comment.

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