Tag Archives: VW

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.

As legislators eye VW subsidies, Ramsey says Saturn subsidies may have been a mistake

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Thursday that it may have been “a mistake” for Tennessee to subsidize the development of the General Motors plant outside Nashville because it has a United Auto Workers union contract.

The Blountville Republican’s comments came as GOP lawmakers weighing a $166 million incentive package for Volkswagen expansion in Chattanooga seek assurances that the German automaker will remain neutral on labor issues among its workers.

Republican lawmakers have grumbled about the United Auto Workers union’s ongoing role at the plant, and Ramsey pointed to the thriving Nissan plant in Smyrna as an example of the benefits of nonunion auto production compared with the GM plant that begun its life making Saturns.

“Maybe we made a mistake years ago with the things we did for Saturn, because it’s been up and down, closed and open, and yet Nissan is booming right now,” Ramsey said.

The GM plant in Spring Hill produced more than 3.7 million vehicles between 1990 and 2007. At its peak, the facility employed nearly 8,000 workers. But that number had dwindled to about 630 by 2009, when auto assembly was idled during the Great Recession.

Production was restarted following a 2011 contract agreement with the UAW that included salary concessions for entry-level workers and an agreement to bring jobs to Spring Hill that would have otherwise gone to Mexico. The plant now employs about 1,700 hourly workers. GM announced earlier this month that under the 2011 contract, each worker will receive $9,000 in profit sharing.

The Nissan plant in Smyrna has added about 4,500 jobs since 2011, bringing its total to 8,400 employees. The plant made 648,000 vehicles last year.
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McCormick says legislators will OK $300M in VW incentives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A top Republican in the Tennessee General Assembly says he expects his colleagues to approve the state share of a $300 million incentive package for Volkswagen despite misgivings about the role of the United Auto Workers union at the German automaker’s plant in Chattanooga.

House Republican leader Gerald McCormick says he agrees with some colleagues that the UAW should not, in his words, “slip in the back door because of a secret deal with Volkswagen.”

But McCormick nevertheless expects his colleagues to approve the deal struck to ensure the production of a new SUV at the plant and the creation of 2,000 jobs. In McCormick’s words: “Tennessee will keep its promises.”

The UAW has qualified under a new labor policy at the VW plant that stops short of collective bargaining.

Legislators eye blocking VW incentives because of union activity

The General Assembly could oppose providing incentives for Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant expansion in the wake of United Auto Workers gains at the factory, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

“I start with a jaundiced view,” said state Rep. Mike Carter about the incentives estimated at nearly $300 million, a large chunk of which is to come from the state.

Action on the VW incentives, negotiated last year by Gov. Bill Haslam and state economic development officials, is expected to come during the upcoming legislative session and with a backdrop of UAW activity at the plant.

“There will be discussions about additional incentives to Volkswagen,” said state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, in a meeting with Times Free Press reporters and editors. “Whatever is playing out locally will be part of that discussion.”

When pressed on an outcome, Watson said, “I didn’t say they should pass the incentives. I didn’t say they were going to pass. At the end of the day, we’ll settle on what is in the best interests of the citizens. Each individual legislator will take a position that best represents his district.”

Last year, Watson was among state legislative leaders who sharply criticized VW for supporting the UAW ahead of a February union vote by VW employees. He said then that VW conducted a labor campaign that’s “unfair, unbalanced and, quite frankly, un-American.”

The UAW lost, 712 to 626.

But the UAW alleged interference by Republican state politicians and formed a nondues-paying local. Since then, VW created a new policy to interact with labor groups based on membership and granted the UAW access to the plant and regular meetings with management.

A rival labor group, the American Council of Employees, has alleged that VW favors the UAW and is not offering “a level playing field.”

VW denies preference for one group over another and says its policy is “fair and equal treatment of all groups.

…Sen. Todd Gardenhire said VW officials are “in your face. It’s their way or no way. They’ve decided by-golly they want the UAW here. They’re not listening to the community.”

But state Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, believes VW supports the UAW because in Germany, working with unions has helped stabilize the economy and labor pool.

Still, Favors said, with other budgetary needs in the state, such as education, VW may not need the full incentive package.”

UPDATE: Haslam weighs in.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam says he understands the “real concerns” raised by some fellow Republican lawmakers about the ongoing role of the United Auto Workers union’s role at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, but stressed that they shouldn’t sink a $300 million incentive deal to get the German automaker to expand production there.

Haslam, who last summer struck the incentives deal with Volkswagen to add the production of a new SUV at the Chattanooga plant and add about 2,000 jobs, told reporters Wednesday that his administration will work to persuade reluctant lawmakers to agree to the arrangement.

“You have some real concerns expressed by legislators that we understand — we expressed those same concerns up front as well,” Haslam said. “We’ll have those discussions about where we think Volkswagen is and why we think this is the right proposal for the state.”

UAW qualifies to represent workers at VW Chattanooga plant

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The United Auto Workers on Monday qualified for the top tier of a new labor policy at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, giving the union its first formal role within a foreign-owned auto plant in the South.

Volkswagen said that an independent auditor had verified that the UAW’s Local 42 had signed up at least 45 percent of workers at the Chattanooga plant. That will entitle the union to biweekly discussions with managers and to frequent access to the plant for meetings, notices and other organizing activity.

While the policy doesn’t address collective bargaining, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel called it a “starting point” for achieving that goal at the plant where he said the union already represents more than half the workers.

The UAW narrowly lost a union vote at the plant in February after a campaign that included warnings from Republican lawmakers that state incentives needed to expand the plant could be threatened if the union won.

Casteel said that negotiations with Volkswagen management later resulted in the union dropping a National Labor Relations Board challenge in exchange for later being recognized as the representative of its members at the plant without another vote.

“We believe Volkswagen made this commitment in good faith and we believe the company will honor this commitment,” Casteel said.

Under federal labor laws, a company is allowed — but not required — to recognize a union that has signed up at least half of all workers. UAW opponents like Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam have called on Volkswagen to require another secret ballot.
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AP story on union developments at Volkswagen in Chattanooga

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — In rival camps located about a mile apart, both supporters and opponents of the United Auto Workers’ efforts to unionize their first foreign auto plant in the South say a new labor policy at the Volkswagen factory is going to help them.

The new policy, known as “Community Organization Engagement,” establishes formal rules for labor groups at the plant for the first time. What the effects will be is still up for debate.

To some, the policy may open the door to the union eventually representing all workers in contract negotiations. To others, it may undercut the union by giving an opposing group an official voice at the plant.

The outcome is being closely watched in the U.S. and abroad. Other German and Asian automakers in the South are keenly monitoring developments, as are anti-union Republicans.

And the company, with perhaps the most to say, isn’t saying much at all.

“Let’s let this play out and see how it goes,” said Volkswagen Chattanooga spokesman Scott Wilson.

The policy works like this: Groups that can sign up at least 15 percent of workers get access to plant meeting space and regular meetings with management. Groups that sign up to 30 percent or 45 percent of employees get more access.
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Way cleared for UAW to represent VW workers in Chattanooga

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An upcoming policy change by Volkswagen would clear the way for the United Auto Workers to become the first union to bargain on behalf of employees at a foreign automaker in the South, the UAW said Monday.

Volkswagen and the union reached an agreement last spring, according to a letter to members of Local 42 in Chattanooga obtained by The Associated Press. The UAW said that it would cooperate with efforts to win production of a new SUV in Chattanooga, and that it would drop its National Labor Relations Board challenge of a February union vote.

In return, Volkswagen committed to recognizing the UAW, which would give it the authority to bargain on behalf of both members and non-members, according to the letter signed by Mike Cantrell and Steve Cochran, the president and vice president of Local 42. Tennessee’s right-to-work laws mean that no worker can be forced to join a union, though the UAW says more than half of eligible workers have signed up.

The UAW in February lost a contentious union election at the Volkswagen plant by a 712-626 vote amid warnings from Republican politicians — including U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam — that $300 million in incentives for expansion could be imperiled if the union won. Workers who oppose the UAW have formed a chapter of what they call the American Council of Employees in hopes of preventing the union from being recognized by Volkswagen.

Corker drew the ire of the UAW for repeatedly suggesting before the February union vote that he had inside information that the rejection of the union would result in the company deciding to expand the plant within two weeks.

It was later revealed that the state’s $300 million incentive package offered to Volkswagen had contained the caveat that the money was subject to labor talks “being concluded to the satisfaction” of the state. Haslam declined to specify which scenarios would have met the state’s satisfaction.

Volkswagen ultimately announced in July that it will invest $600 million to expand the factory to build a new seven-seater SUV as it seeks to reverse flagging U.S. sales. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The automaker wants to create a German-style works council at the Chattanooga plant to represent both salaried and blue-collar workers. But the company’s interpretation of U.S. law indicates that it must work with an independent union to operate a works council.

The UAW’s case at the Tennessee plant has been bolstered by support from labor representatives who control half the seats on the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker’s supervisory board. The UAW, its German counterpart IG Metall and the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council in September signed an agreement outlining their joint efforts to gain labor representation at the Chattanooga plant.

Organizing foreign-owned auto plants has been seen as key for the UAW to revive its fortunes. Union membership stood at about 391,000 at the start of this year — a far cry from its 1979 peak of 1.5 million.

And even though the Detroit Three have hired thousands in the past four years as auto sales have recovered, the new hires are paid only two-thirds of what veteran workers get, keeping dues revenue down. The union agreed to the lower wages and became more cooperative seven years ago to help the companies survive the recession.

Haslam ‘re-engaged’ with VW — no union talk

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday his administration is back in discussions with Volkswagen officials over state incentives and other assistance programs needed to persuade the German auto manufacturer to build a new line of vehicles at its Chattanooga plant, reports the Times-Free Press.

“We’ve re-engaged in discussions with them,” Haslam told reporters. “I don’t really have any update beyond that except we are talking with them.”

Asked if his administration is pegging incentives to whether the VW plant is eventually unionized, Haslam said no.

“There’s no discussion about unions,” Haslam said.

Volkswagen of America chief Michael Horn told Automotive News in a report published Thursday that new midsize and small sport utility vehicles are needed by the automaker to spur U.S. growth.

Horn said that the company has reached a key plateau of 400,000 annual vehicle sales in the United States and that when new SUVs come on line “we plan to build up from there.”

VW is close to making a decision on where to assemble a new midsize SUV, which is slated to be in dealer showrooms in 2016. The automaker has said that Chattanooga is the front-runner to make the vehicle ahead of VW operations in Mexico.

Looking at Efforts to Unionize VW Plant in Chattanooga

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press has a rundown on the “increasingly pitched battle over unionizing Volkswagen’s auto assembly plant” in Southeast Tennessee.
A Washington, D.C.-based group is ramping up a summer-long campaign to convince plant workers and Chattanoogans in general about what it calls “devastating” consequences for the factory, city and state should the employees unionize.
Pro-union forces, such as the Michigan-based United Auto Workers, continue to press their case for what they say is “a new model” where the workforce and management aren’t adversarial but rather vie for the same goal.
Matt Patterson, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center For Economic Freedom, said his group has put up a billboard on Highway 153, just a few miles from the VW plant, to help get its message across about the dangers of unions and the UAW.
The billboard depicts a rundown former Detroit, Mich., auto plant and states “Auto unions ATE Detroit. Next meal: Chattanooga?”
Plans are to begin efforts to educate business leaders, politicians and citizens “about the history, tactics and legacy of this powerful union,” according to a website, WorkplaceChoice.org, sponsored by the group.
Patterson said he’s talking with local tea party activists to discuss strategy in terms of distributing materials such as pamphlets.
…Ed Hunter, a Volkswagen employee and union supporter, said education efforts are ongoing to inform employees about a German-style works council labor board and “the new UAW.”
“Our group is expanding every day,” he said, adding that people see the German model as one in which “everybody is working for the same goal.”
At the VW plant, Juergen Stumpf, who has extensive experience as an employee representative in the VW Group and is considered an expert on the German works councils system, has been assigned to the Chattanooga factory.
“Mr. Stumpf is currently on assignment in Chattanooga to be an information resource for the local management and employees regarding the German model of co-determination,” said plant spokesman Scott Wilson.