UAW wins historic union election victory at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant | American unions

Volkswagen workers at the Chattanooga, Tenn., auto plant voted to join the United Auto Workers union, a historic victory for the union and the labor movement’s efforts to expand south of the UNITED STATES.

The vote was the first union election held as part of the UAW’s ambitious organizing drive to unionize 150,000 non-union auto factory workers in the United States.

The victory makes the Chattanooga plant the first southern auto plant to unionize through elections since the 1940s.

The union made the call Friday evening after some 2,200 ballots in favor of unionization were counted. The plant has about 4,300 eligible voters.

This victory is an important step toward expanding union efforts in the American South, where unions have historically faced aggressive opposition and where unionization rates lag far behind other regions of the United States. .

Workers at a Mercedes plant in Vance, Alabama, are expected to vote on whether to join the UAW in mid-May. Shawn Fain, the president of the UAW, is also targeting Tesla, whose boss, Elon Musk, has vigorously fought unionization efforts.

Workers at the Chattanooga plant voted against the union in 2014 and 2019 in hotly contested elections. In 2014, the UAW attempted to partner with Volkswagen management to push for a works council similar to the one the company has in Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered. But those plans faced significant backlash from anti-union groups and from Bob Corker, the Republican U.S. senator whose staff was in contact with anti-union groups over messaging before the election.

The UAW was expected to win its final vote given strong support from workers beforehand, the rapid turnaround time between applying for the election and holding it, and the changing culture and landscape that have given the American labor movement and the rise in popularity of the UAW. after its successful strike against US automakers last year.

In this context, Republican elected officials were less inclined to speak out against the UAW.

“The UAW is sending a strong signal that big changes could come where most thought the labor movement was dead and buried,” said Professor Sharon Block, executive director of the Center for Labor and a Fair Economy. Harvard Law School.

“Following the settlement of the Big Three strikes this fall, southern transplant automakers gave their workers wage increases – the UAW raise – thinking they could buy out their workers cheaply . The UAW’s organizing drive in southern transplant companies is a bet that workers can’t be bought so cheaply. The UAW’s message to these workers is: “Don’t settle for crumbs. »

A Volkswagen spokesperson said in an email before the vote: “We respect our workers’ right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests. We fully support an NLRB vote so that every team member has the opportunity to vote by secret ballot on this important decision.

“Volkswagen is proud of our Chattanooga work environment, which offers some of the highest paying jobs in the region.”

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