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
By Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto Writers
DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen will spend more than $15 billion to settle consumer lawsuits and government allegations that it cheated on emissions tests in what lawyers are calling the largest auto-related class-action settlement in U.S. history.
Under the settlement revealed Tuesday by a U.S. District Court in San Francisco, VW will pay just over $10 billion to either buy back or repair about 475,000 vehicles with cheating 2-liter diesel engines. The company also will compensate owners with payments of $5,100 to $10,000, depending on the age of their vehicles.
Although the company has been working on a repair for the vehicles for months, it appears that VW may not be able to fix the cars and will have to buy them all back, according to the documents.
The German automaker also has to pay governments $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and spend another $2 billion for research on zero-emissions vehicles.
Volkswagen also settled with 44 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, which also sued the company, agreeing to pay about $603 million. That brings the total settlements announced Tuesday to $15.3 billion. (Note: Tennessee was one of the states. Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s news release on the settlement is at the end of this AP story. Among other things, Tennessee is eligible for $42 million in environmental mitigation money and $12.6 million for violations of state consumer protection laws ) Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A legislative hearing called by a leading Volkswagen critic just days after news of a diesel emissions cheating scheme broke last month turned into more of a pep rally than a grilling in the city that is home to the German automaker’s lone U.S. plant on Thursday.
A top Republican in the state House said he expects the scandal will turn out to be a “small bump in the road;” a former governor said critics were doing a disservice to more than 3,000 workers at the plant; and the state’s economic development chief went to a nearby dealership to put a $5,000 deposit on a new SUV to be made at the factory next year.
Volkswagen earlier in the day announced an official decision to stick with its lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga — including production of the new midsized SUV next year — despite the uncertainty caused by its emissions scandal.
The Chattanooga meeting was presided over by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, a longtime critic of the company for not taking a harder line against the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize the plant. But Watson opened the hearing by saying that labor issues were not the reason for the hearing, and the issue did not come up during the discussion.
“I’m kind of interested in what’s happening in my hometown and home state,” Watson said.
Christian Koch, the plant’s president and CEO, said that diesels made up an average of between 20 percent and 25 percent of the midsized Passat sedans produced in Chattanooga before sales were halted following the revelations. The plant has made more than 500,000 Passats since it opened in 2011.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Volkswagen is sticking with planned investments at its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee — including production of a new SUV there next year — despite the uncertainty caused by its emissions scandal.
Volkswagen said Thursday it is reviewing investment spending worldwide as it faces huge costs to deal with its scandal, in which it equipped some of its cars to evade U.S. diesel emissions tests. The company has set aside 6.7 billion euros ($7.5 billion) to pay for recalls, but analysts say the total costs will be much higher.
The company, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, said in a statement that it will invest $600 million in Tennessee and reiterated plans to build a new midsize SUV there starting from the end of 2016.
Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn said that “the clear commitment to the Chattanooga location confirms our engagement in North America and our confidence in the local team.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Volkswagen AG equipped 482,000 diesel engine models with software that disabled emissions controls when cars were not on test stands. Up to 11 million cars worldwide have the deceptive software.
Volkswagen has apologized, suspended several managers and hired a law firm to investigate. New CEO Matthias Mueller says the company is re-examining its corporate culture to make sure such wrongdoing does not happen again.
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.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday raised the prospect of Volkswagen locating its new North American headquarters in the state, only to try to walk back those comments later in the day.
Haslam was asked during a question-and-answer session at the Southern Automotive Conference about Volkswagen’s status in Tennessee in the wake of a diesel emissions cheating scandal that has rocked the German automaker.
The Republican governor responded that he has been in close contact with officials in Germany and at Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga since news of the scandal broke.
“We have a lot of hopes that Chattanooga could become not just the headquarters for North America, but really the center for operations for Volkswagen,” Haslam said. “So if something like this happens it’s obviously really concerning for us.”
When questioned by reporters following another speech later in the day, Haslam appeared to disavow those comments.
“I didn’t mean physically the headquarters,” Haslam said. “Excuse me if I wasn’t clear on that this morning — what they said is that Chattanooga is going to be the hub for all of our operations in North America.”
By Lucas L. Johnson, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam said he visited Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant on Wednesday to let its workers know the state is on their side amid an emissions cheating scandal involving the German automaker that he says has nothing to do with them.
The Republican governor spoke to employees then talked to reporters at a state transportation management center across from the VW plant.
“Everybody knows about Volkswagen’s struggles,” Haslam told the news media. “What is getting lost in that story is that there are some men and women right here in Chattanooga that are producing a great product, who have nothing at all to do with the problems that have been created.”
Haslam added: “One of the purposes today was to tell them, ‘The state of Tennessee is not going anywhere in terms of supporting you all. We want this to be a success.'”
The governor said he still has confidence in the plant and believes it can still successfully push out vehicles — including the production of a new sports utility vehicle — despite the scandal in which Volkswagen was caught outfitting diesel cars with software to defeat emissions tests.