The Man Bites Dog: The United Auto Workers, having lost their big vote at VW’s Chattanooga factory, have filed an “unfair labor practice” complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It’s not a high-percentage shot–the UAW’s main complaint is that Republican Tennessee politicians (including Sen. Corker) threatened loss of tax breaks, and said that VW would bring more work to the plant if the union was rejected. But Corker and the other politicians aren’t VW officials or employees–the parties the NLRB traditionally regulates.
Bernd Osterloh, on the other hand, is a VW official. He’s a labor leader who sits on the supervisory board that approves new investments by the company. And after the vote, he quite forcefully declared that Chattanooga might lose out on future investments because it rejected the UAW.
If management made that kind of threat to keep out a union, there’d be trouble with the feds. Can it be an “unfair labor practice” for management to threaten retaliation if its workers don’t unionize?**
P.S.: If VW wanted a union, why didn’t the company just agree to let the UAW in? Good question! Possible answers: a) Some Chattanooga workers clearly objected, and maybe VW wanted to respect their concerns; b) VW management seems split on the
counterproductive rigidities of the Wagner Act virtues of American-style unionization; c) Maybe the company wanted the UAW to at least show it could walk and chew gum at the same time, a test the union failed. …
** Update – Law Prof Joseph Mastrosimone tweets an answer to this question: “It would be an 8(a)(1) violation. We call that top down organizing. … Employees have a right to [engage] or to not [engage] in protected activity under Section 7.”
Does VW have the excuse that Osterloh’s threat came after the election, and presumably months before any rerun? Mastrosimone: A “statement outside the critical period may not be objectionable to overturn election. But, the threat is a ULP [unfair labor practice]. ”
Herr Osterloh, call your lawyer! And welcome to the world of the Wagner Act. …