Tag Archives: unions

VW challenges NLRB union ruling

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Volkswagen on Thursday challenged a National Labor Relations Board ruling allowing a small group of employees at the German automaker’s lone U.S. plant to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.

Volkswagen’s appeal, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, comes a day after the NLRB ruled that the company was engaging in unfair labor practices by refusing to bargain with the union.

The board said earlier this year that the skilled-trades workers who maintain and repair machinery and robots at the plant “share a community of interest” in terms of qualifications, training, supervision and hours that are distinct from production workers at the facility’s assembly, body weld and paint shops.

Volkswagen has argued that labor decisions should only be made by the plant’s entire hourly workforce of 1,400 hourly employees, which had narrowly rejected UAW representation in 2014 election. Continue reading

NLRB lets stand VW union vote in Chattanooga

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday declined to take up Volkswagen’s challenge of a union vote at its lone U.S. assembly plant in Tennessee.

In a 2-1 decision, the panel refused to consider the German automaker’s appeal on the basis that it raised “no substantial issues warranting review.”

Volkswagen had unsuccessfully sought to block a union vote among a group of about 160 workers specializing in the repair and maintenance of machinery and robots, arguing that labor decisions should be made by all 1,400 blue-collar workers at the plant. The company also questioned the timing of the vote amid its struggles to cope with the fallout of its diesel emissions cheating scandal.
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Memphis teacher unions’ dispute goes to court

A question of whether Shelby County Schools is taking money out of teachers’ paychecks against their will has dragged the school district into an ongoing feud between local and statewide teacher unions, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The Memphis Shelby County Education Association is suing SCS for continuing to collect dues out of teachers’ paychecks for the Tennessee Education Association, even after the two groups disaffiliated last year. According to court documents, that amounts to about $67,000 every pay period and affects about 4,200 employees.

A chancery court judge ruled Monday, however, that SCS can continue making the withdrawals until the court matter is resolved. A hearing date has been set for Feb. 8.

SCS attorney Rodney Moore said no money has been given to TEA against employees’ wishes. He said because of the separation of the two union groups late last year, SCS has been continuing the payroll deductions for TEA union dues, but hasn’t yet transferred that money to TEA pending approval of each employee.

Moore, who noted “we don’t understand the complaint,” said the issue is between MSCEA and TEA — which wasn’t even listed as a party on the lawsuit. TEA is fighting that, and has filed a petition to intervene in the case. Moore also noted the school board voted in November to stay neutral in the fight between the two unions.

MSCEA executive director Keith Williams said the group is suing the school system and not TEA because it is the school system that deducts the money from employees’ paychecks.

Williams said Monday morning’s hearing was the first time he’d heard SCS say they were holding on to the dues and not yet giving the money to TEA. He said he thinks dues have only been collected erroneously for one or two pay periods.

MSCEA attorney Michael Floyd argued in court that SCS violated a memorandum of understanding that outlines payroll deduction procedures.

“My complaint says they stole this money from these people,” Floyd said.

VW skilled trades workers vote for union

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The United Auto Workers union has gained a significant first victory at a foreign-owned automaker in the South, easily winning a vote by skilled-trades workers at Volkswagen’s lone U.S. factory to have the UAW negotiate their collective bargaining agreements.

The workers who repair and maintain machinery and robots at the German automaker’s plant in Chattanooga voted 108-44 for UAW representation over two days ending Friday.

Volkswagen objected to the new vote favoring the UAW to represent just 162 skilled-trades workers, arguing that all of the plant’s 1,400 blue-collar workers should have a say over union issues. The German automaker said it plans to appeal the ruling allowing the vote to the full National Labor Relations Board.

“We believe that a union of only maintenance employees fractures our workforce and does not take into account the overwhelming community of interest shared between our maintenance and production employees,” the company said in a statement.

The vote comes nearly 20 months after the union was narrowly defeated in an election involving all hourly employees at the plant. The UAW has been thwarted for decades in attempts to represent workers outside of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.
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Germany’s largest trade union teams with UAW in TN

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Germany’s largest trade union is opening a joint office with the United Auto Workers in Tennessee to promote labor issues at German automakers and suppliers in the southern United States.

Frankfurt-based IG Metall estimates that 100,000 people work for German-owned automotive companies in the U.S. Unlike at their parent companies’ factories in Germany, most of the U.S. workers aren’t represented by unions.

“IG Metall believes some German manufacturers are exploiting low-wage environments in the U.S. South, where working conditions — including health and safety situations — tend to be challenging for employees,” according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press in advance of the official announcement of the new joint office scheduled for later this week.

The move has been in the works for months, but comes against the backdrop of scandal at Volkswagen, which has been the UAW’s chief target among foreign automakers in the U.S. Volkswagen has admitted to cheating on U.S. emissions tests, creating an air of uncertainty at all of its facilities, including its lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga.

The growing cooperation between the UAW and IG Metall is unlikely to be seen as a welcome development among anti-labor Republicans in the South, who argue that a union expansion in the auto industry would hurt future recruiting efforts, especially among Asian companies.
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TN commission says ‘no, thanks’ to $193K federal grant

In September the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability was awarded a $193,000 federal grant that would study paid leave issues concerning caregivers in Tennessee, but — less than two months later — The Tennessean reports that the state government agency is withdrawing its application as inappropriately filed.

Jim Shulman, executive director of the commission, said the grant application was written about paid family leave and not about caregiving. While the two issues are related, the grant centered on labor and economic issues more than caregiving. He did not write the grant, but it was filed under his name and he takes responsibility, he said.

“We submitted something that was outside the scope of what this agency does,” Shulman said. “We submitted a proposal that really didn’t talk much about caregiving. We included in that a contract that wasn’t going to do what we said we were going to do. There is a problem with that.”

The withdrawal follows an editorial by state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, in The Tennessean in October. She said such feasibility studies would do “much harm to many Tennessee workers and employers” and argued mandates tied to paid leave would delay hiring, cut pay and lead to layoffs.

A House committee had previously decided against authorizing the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development to pursue federal funds for such research, she said,

“I was happy to see it was withdrawn,” Lynn said Monday. “It’s all deficit spending by the federal government, so we really can’t afford to do studies like this.”

Lynn said paid leave policies are issues between employers and employees and those workers and their families, not the government. Most companies are often flexible with workers during difficult times, she said.

The grant was among $1.55 million awarded nationally that was dedicated to research paid leave. The Tennessee grant was meant to carry out a survey on needs and availability of paid family and medical leave in Tennessee. Upon receiving the grant, Shulman pointed to the large population of Tennesseans — roughly 1.65 million — who provide care for adults.

…Craig Fitzhugh, House minority leader who submitted a letter of support for the grant application, said… the withdrawal “represents a stunning missed opportunity for the people of Tennessee. I urge those involved with this decision to consider carefully their actions and do what is best for the public — not the politicians or personalities involved.”

Note: Here’s an emailed statement from Tennessee AFL-CIO President Billy Dycus:

“It is disappointing to see the state of Tennessee take a step backward when it comes to paid leave issues. This grant would have initiated an important chance to assess the needs of all Tennessee workers and provide our leaders with a blueprint for how to address those desires. Study or no study, we are committed to ensuring that working families have access to the best possible paid leave policies and will continue to remind lawmakers of the needs of all of their constituents, not just the privileged few.”

Haslam: VW union vote should be delayed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says Volkswagen should be allowed to address the fallout from its emissions cheating scandal before taking up another union vote at its Tennessee plant.

Maintenance workers at the German automaker’s lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga last week petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a vote on representation by the United Auto Workers for collective bargaining purposes.

Haslam has long opposed the UAW gaining a foothold at the plant and told reporters Tuesday that Volkswagen faces major issues in emerging from the emissions scandal. In Haslam’s words: “Let’s get those addressed first.”

The vote would apply only to the approximately 165 employees classified by VW as “skilled trade” workers. The UAW last year narrowly lost an election to represent about 1,500 hourly employees at the plant.

TN AFL-CIO elects Steelworkers leader as new president

News release from Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council
NASHVILLE, TN – Billy Dycus has been elected as the new president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council. He succeeds Gary Moore, who chose not to seek re-election after serving as president since 2011.

“I am grateful and humbled that the affiliates representing thousands of hard-working Tennesseans of the Tennessee AFL-CIO have elected me to represent Labor throughout the state,” Dycus said. “President Gary Moore and his staff have done an amazing job managing the many difficult issues facing Labor and working people over the last four years. I look forward to growing Labor and providing workers the dignity and rights they so deserve by assembling a staff that is diverse, highly-motivated, and willing to meet the challenges of an ever-changing workplace and political landscape.”

Previously, Dycus served as the president of United Steelworkers Local 1155L in Morrison, Tennessee.

“I want to extend congratulations to Billy Dycus upon his election to the office of President of the Tennessee AFL-CIO,” Moore said. “As we move forward with our familiar and constant Labor battles, I know Billy will do a great job. I wish him and the new Executive Board the best of luck in their endeavors fighting for the working men and women of Tennessee.”

Current Tennessee AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer A.J. Starling was re-elected to serve another term.
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Teachers union turf war in Memphis

A turf war is brewing between the state and Memphis teachers unions, according to Chalkbeat Tennessee.

In an unexpected move, the Tennessee Education Association told Memphis-area union members in an email that it had created a new chapter for them on Wednesday. The TEA did so after the local teachers union moved to break from the state and national unions — a decision that has left educators confused about who represents them.

“I think everyone’s got to be puzzled about what’s going on,” said Ken Foster, the former head of the local union. “I don’t know if the average teacher in the classroom knows what is going on, but I guess they would have some questions.”

The conflict stems from a series of changes — including Foster’s departure — at the local union, the Memphis and Shelby County Education Association, that appear to have provoked the state union.

At issue is whether the local chapter can make its own decisions about its staff and policies, or whether it falls under the state union’s oversight.

Recently, the local union — which represents about 4,500 teachers, or about half of local educators — has taken advantage of its autonomy to make a slew of leadership changes. Most notably, Keith Williams, the five-year union president whose term ended in July and who is now running for City Council, returned as executive director in August. He replaced Foster, who had held the executive director position for 15 years.

Williams has used his new position to wage a battle against the state union, which he said had failed to serve local members. He said the local affiliate handles all grievances filed by its members, but when they choose to turn court cases over to state union officials they are ignored.

“They haven’t done one thing for members in Memphis and Shelby County,” Williams said.

So he retained Memphis attorney Michael Floyd to inform state union officials that the local chapter was seceding.

“Effective immediately my client has elected not to be affiliated with either the NEA or the TEA,” Floyd wrote to TEA President Barbara Gray on Wednesday.

Magazine lowers TN rating for politicians interfering with VW union process

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has a dropped a spot in Chief Executive magazine’s annual rating of the best and worst states for business over political interference on labor issues at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

According to the magazine, Tennessee is on the downward trend because “state politicians shouldn’t have messed in Volkswagen’s unionization business.” The state’s ranking dropped from third to fourth.

Opposition to the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize the Volkswagen plant has been led by Republicans like U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam.

Documents leaked last year revealed that the Haslam administration tried to make a $300 million incentive package for Volkswagen contingent on labor talks “being concluded to the satisfaction” of the state, though the governor declined to say which scenarios would have satisfied the state.