Volkswagen Chattanooga employees have voted in a secret ballot election against United Auto Workers (UAW) representation. Participation in the election was 89 percent. Fifty three percent of the eligible employees who voted decided against the UAW as their bargaining representative in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) between Wednesday and Friday.
The vote was 626 yes and 712 no.
“On behalf of Volkswagen Group of America, I want to thank all of our Chattanooga production and maintenance employees for their participation in this week's vote. They have spoken, and Volkswagen will respect the decision of the majority,” said Frank Fischer, CEO and chairman of Volkswagen Chattanooga. “The election results remain to be certified by the NLRB,” Mr. Fischer, said.
“Our employees have not made a decision that they are against a works council. Throughout this process, we found great enthusiasm for the idea of an American-style works council both inside and outside our plant,” Mr. Fischer noted. “Our goal continues to be to determine the best method for establishing a works council in accordance with the requirements of U.S. labor law to meet VW America's production needs and serve our employees’ interests,” Mr. Fischer said.
Sebastian Patta, vice president for human resources, said: “While there was intense outside interest in this election, our managers and employees inside the plant maintained high quality production and continued to work together in a calm and respectful manner.”
“Our commitment to Tennessee is a long term investment. We look forward to continuing to work with the State of Tennessee and the city of Chattanooga to support job creation, growth, and economic development today and into the future,” Mr. Fischer added.
Senator Bob Corker said, “Needless to say, I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future.”
Congressman Chuck Fleischmann said, “I am very happy with the results of this vote. Volkswagen has been a wonderful part of Chattanooga and I look forward to their continued growth.
"Tennessee has enjoyed a very strong business environment, thanks in part to our right-to-work policies. Last night’s vote by the employees will help keep that environment strong.”
Gloria J. Sweet-Love, president Tennessee NAACP State Conference, said, "This is a disappointing setback in a long term effort to ensure better workplace conditions for all American workers. It is unfortunate that some outside voices engaged in deceptive and intimidation tactics to influences the plant workers. We remain dedicated to protecting the rights of workers and their ability to stand together."
The UAW issued this statement: "Workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant today have voted against union representation that would have led to the establishment of a works council that would have been the first such model of labor-management relations in the United States. At the end of voting on Friday, Volkswagen workers voted against joining the union in a vote of 712 to 626. The decision follows three days of voting during an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board and comes amid a firestorm of interference and threats from special interest groups."
UAW President Bob King.said, “While we certainly would have liked a victory for workers here, we deeply respect the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council, Volkswagen management and IG Metall for doing their best to create a free and open atmosphere for workers to exercise their basic human right to form a union.”
“We commend Volkswagen for its commitment to global human rights, to worker rights and trying to provide an atmosphere of freedom to make a decision,” said UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel, who directs the union’s Southern organizing. “Unfortunately, politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee.”
“While we’re outraged by politicians and outside special interest groups interfering with the basic legal right of workers to form a union, we’re proud that these workers were brave and stood up to the tremendous pressure from outside,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Williams, who directs the union’s transnational program. “We hope this will start a larger discussion about workers’ right to organize.”
“The employees have spoken, and we welcome resolution on this issue both for them and the community as a whole,” said Ron Harr, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber. “No matter where you stood going into this election, we encourage everyone to come together around the goal we all share - the creation of more jobs in our community. At the Chamber, we will continue to partner with Volkswagen on the potential expansion and supplier recruitment while also continuing to promote job creation across other industry sectors to keep our local economy strong and diverse.”
Mayor Andy Berke said, "This has always been a decision for VW and their employees. Now that their decision is made, let's focus on what matters most to our community - bringing more living wage, middle class jobs to Chattanooga.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville) issued the following response to the Volkswagen workers' decision not to be represented by the UAW.
“While we respect the decision made by Volkswagen workers, the result does not excuse the outrageous and unprecedented conduct by Tennessee's Republican elected officials. The intimidation tactics and coercive efforts should be condemned, regardless of the outcome tonight. Workers deserved the right to vote without being pressured by outside special interests and elected officials, but that did not happen."
Workers said it was a simple paper ballot with a yes or no choice. The ballot was placed in a cardboard box.
The election was overseen by the National Labor Review Board.
Retired Circuit Court Judge Sam Payne was present for the outcome.
Senator Corker came out strongly against UAW and said he was told that the local plant will get an SUV line if the union did not win.
Plant president Fischer disputed that assertion, and Senator Corker shot back that it was accurate.
Former County Mayor Claude Ramsey, a key figure in bringing Volkswagen to Chattanooga, also held a press conference to urge theemployees not to join the union, as did state Sen. Bo Watson and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.
State Democrats sided with the UAW as did Rep. JoAnne Favors.
President Obama was quoted as saying everyone was in favor of the UAW "except local politicians who are more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers."