VW Workers Seek Union Vote at Tennessee Plant for Third Time

Volkswagen employees in Tennessee who are hoping to join the United Automobile Workers asked a federal agency on Monday to hold an election, a key step toward the union’s longtime goal of organizing nonunion factories across the South.

With the union’s backing, Volkswagen workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for a vote on U.A.W. representation, saying that more than 70 percent of the 4,000 eligible workers at the plant had signed cards supporting the union.

“Today, we are one step closer to making a good job at Volkswagen into a great career,” Isaac Meadows, an assembly worker at the plant, said in a statement.

If held, an election would be the first test of the U.A.W.’s newfound strength after staging a wave of strikes in the fall against the three Detroit automakers — General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis — and winning record wage increases.

The U.A.W. has been hoping to use momentum from its bargaining with the Detroit-based manufacturers to organize nonunion plants in Southern states that pay significantly lower wages than union factories. The U.A.W. says it plans to spend $40 million over the next three years on its campaign.

Chattanooga workers have voted on U.A.W. representation twice before, and slim majorities rejected unionization each time. In a 2014 vote, the union had no opposition from Volkswagen management, but there was vocal resistance from state Republican leaders, who suggested that unionizing would jeopardize expansion and job growth at the plant. A second narrow loss came in 2019.

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