Volkswagen AG is challenging a U.S. labor official's decision that could open the door to the United Auto Workers union getting bargaining powers at the German auto maker's factory in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Volkswagen said it would appeal to the National Labor Relations Board a Nov. 18 decision by a NLRB regional director that allowed a union election this week for skilled-trades workers at the company's only U.S. plant. The factory's broader population of hourly workers rejected UAW representation last year.
A new vote is scheduled to be held on Thursday and Friday among about 160 workers who have specialized skills, including electricians and machinery mechanics. These workers?just 6% the 2,500 hourly employees at the plant?have more training and typically are paid higher wages than production workers.
Volkswagen argues that employees shouldn't be divided.
"The decision to appeal is based on Volkswagen Chattanooga's consistent position that the Chattanooga workforce is one integrated team," the company said in a statement.
A successful appeal after the vote would seek to invalidate the vote. If the vote is upheld, the skilled tradesmen would have the ability to bargain for better wages and benefits through a collective agreement.
The standoff comes as the union attempts to reassert its influence in the U.S. The UAW last month finished ratifying four-year contracts with the Detroit auto makers that include wage increases and rich bonuses. While UAW membership recently has gained with the U.S. auto-sales boom, it has fallen over the past decade.
The lone unionized U.S. auto plant owned by a foreign auto maker?Mitsubishi Motors Corp.?closed last week in Normal, Ill. The Japanese company is seeking a new owner for the assembly plant.
In early 2014, the UAW narrowly lost a vote to unionize the entire hourly Volkswagen workforce in Chattanooga. The UAW established a local unit despite the outcome and the auto maker agreed to recognize it as a "tier 3" member organization that has certain rights.
"We're disappointed that Volkswagen continues to argue against employees' rights that clearly are protected under federal law," UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said in a statement. "We're calling on Volkswagen to drop this appeal and instead refocus on the core values that made it a successful brand, including environmental sustainability and employee representation."
Volkswagen has said it is open to unionizing the workforce, but politicians in the South have fought hard to prevent it from happening. The plant was a target for the UAW seeking to unionize foreign auto companies since before it was completed.
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