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Associated Press
Volkswagen Chattanooga worker Jonathan Walden on Thursday signs the United Auto Workers charter creating Local 42.

UAW, VW reach agreement

Automaker set to recognize new local if workers sign up

– United Auto Workers leaders said Thursday they have reached a consensus with Volkswagen and expect the German automaker to recognize the union if they sign up enough workers at a new local for the company’s assembly plant in Tennessee.

The union in February suffered a bitter setback in its effort to organize its first foreign-owned plant in the South when workers at the Chattanooga plant rejected UAW representation by a 712-626 vote.

Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer, said the creation of Local 42 will avoid the need for another election that could involve “third-party interference.” He stressed that no employee will be required to join and that no dues would be collected until after a collective bargaining agreement is reached.

“We’ve had ongoing discussions with Volkswagen and have arrived at a consensus with the company,” Casteel said.

“Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members’ union.”

Volkswagen wants to introduce a German-style works council at the plant to represent salaried and blue-collar workers, but the company has said it can’t do so without the involvement of an independent union.

Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson issued a statement saying that the company has “no contract or other formal agreement with UAW on this matter.”

“Just like anywhere else in the world, the establishment of a local organization is a matter for the trade union concerned,” a company statement said.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and his staff understand “that there is no agreement between the company and the UAW,” spokesman David Smith said in an email.

The union last year said it had signed up a majority of plant workers, but it nevertheless lost the contentious vote. UAW organizers blamed the narrow defeat on public statements from GOP politicians warning that a union win could imperil economic incentives for the plant’s expansion.

The union filed – but later abandoned – a challenge of the outcome with the National Labor Relations Board.

The turmoil surrounding the labor vote has delayed a Volkswagen decision on whether to build a new midsize SUV in Chattanooga or in Mexico. The new model is seen as key to reviving flagging VW sales in North America.

It’s unclear whether Thursday’s UAW announcement could affect renewed efforts to negotiate expansion incentives at the plant. The money would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which is heavily anti-union.

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