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Auto Industry

UAW launches trade union branch at Chattanooga VW plant

US trade union United Auto Workers (UAW) has made a new effort to set up shop at the Chattanooga plant of German carmaker Volkswagen. In February, UAW narrowly lost a vote among VW workers to organize labor at the plant.

The United Auto Workers Union (UAW) announced on Thursday that it had organized a local chapter aimed at representing the 2,500 workers at the Chattanooga plant of carmaker Volkswagen.

Local Chapter 42 was set up with the aim of organizing a workers' council similar to the system in German factories and businesses, UAW said. German workers' councils consult with management on an ongoing basis, and have an influence on management decisions. The consultative system can improve factory operations and prevent labor-versus-management problems from intensifying to the point that strikes result.

Volkswagen officials in Germany want Chattanooga workers to have a workers' council, but US labor law requires employees to first be represented by a union before a council can be established.

Does Chattanooga Need a Works Council?

In February, the United State's biggest industrial labor union lost an election at the plant in Tennessee as workers voted 712 to 626 against becoming union members.

Now the union is taking an alternative path to establishing a presence at the Chattanooga plant, by signing up willing workers. "Earlier this year, the UAW was gratified to earn the confidence and support of many Volkswagen team members," UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement.

UAW also said that it was holding ongoing discussions with VW and expressed confidence that the company would recognize the local union if it were to sign up a meaningful portion of the workforce.

Volkswagen spokesman Scott Neal Wilson downplayed the event. "Just like anywhere else in the world, the establishment of a local organization is a matter for the trade union concerned," he told the news agency Reuters.

Following its defeat in February, UAW asked the US National Labor Relations Board to invalidate the result of the vote. The union claimed it was improperly influenced by anti-union statements made by Tennessee Republican politicians and special interest groups. In April, UAW withdrew the complaint, however, saying it was in the best interest of the workers, as the review process could take years.

uhe/nz (Reuters, dpa)

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