UAW says VW employees at Tennessee plant file for union election

A Volkswagen EV ID.4 crossover at the Volkswagen of America plant in Chattanooga, Tenneessee, on June 8, 2022.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

DETROIT — Volkswagen workers at a plant in Tennessee have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a vote to join the United Auto Workers, the union announced Monday.

The filing comes after a “supermajority of Volkswagen workers have signed union cards in just 100 days,” the union said, marking a major milestone in the labor group’s organizing drives of nonunionized auto plants in the U.S.

The UAW has previously failed to organize foreign-based automakers in the U.S. Most recently, plants with Volkswagen and Nissan fell short of the support needed to unionize. In 2019, VW workers at the Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant rejected union representation in an 833-776 vote. 

The Chattanooga plant is VW’s only U.S. assembly plant and employs more than 4,000 autoworkers who would be eligible to vote for union representation.

VW confirmed receiving a notice that the UAW has filed a petition with the NLRB to hold an election. The company said it respects its workers’ right to a democratic process and to organize.

“We will fully support an NLRB vote so every team member has a chance to vote in privacy in this important decision. The election timeline will be determined by the NLRB. Volkswagen is proud of our working environment in Chattanooga that provides some of the best paying jobs in the area,” the company said in an emailed statement.

VW production workers at the plant earn between $23.40 per hour and $32.40 per hour, with a four-year grow-in period to top wages, according to the company.

VW’s hourly wages are lower than those the UAW negotiated last year with the Detroit automakers, which this year range between about $25 an hour and $36 an hour for production workers, including estimated cost-of-living adjustments, or COLA. By the end of the UAW contracts, top wages are expected to surpass $42 an hour for production workers.

VW is one of 13 nonunion automakers in the U.S. that the UAW set its sights on late last year after securing record contracts with the Detroit automakers.

The drive covers nearly 150,000 autoworkers across BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Rivian, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

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