The United Auto Workers (UAW) hopes of holding a workplace election this week at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., to unionize workers was dashed Wednesday, after federal labor officials decided to hold off the vote.
The decision was made after a two day hearing, in which the UAW and Volkswagen each made their case before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in charge of whether the election is held.
Volkswagen rejected the unionizing attempt, because it focused on a subgroup of 164 skilled workers instead of the entire plant. The automaker instead wants a full vote by the over 1,400 maintenance and production employees at the plant, because it doesn’t want employees divided between union and nonunion workers.
The NLRB will ultimately decide whether the 164 employees is too small a group to unionize relative to the rest of the plant. If an election is approved, it could be held on either Nov. 12 and 13 or Nov. 19 and 20, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The Chattanooga Volkswagen plant has been a longtime target of the UAW, but the timing of the current unionizing drive has raised questions.
Volkswagen is dealing with a national scandal involving how it tests emissions, which began on Sept. 18 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice that Volkswagen was in violation of the Clean Air Act. The EPA alleged the automaker intentionally programmed car engines not to properly detect emissions.
The UAW filed paperwork seeking a union election just a few weeks later on Oct. 23.
Previous UAW attempts to unionize the plant have been mostly unsuccessful. The union failed in February, 2014, to organize all the workers in a 712 to 626 vote. In response, UAW began organizing workers with a piecemeal approach. UAW Local 42 was started as a volunteer union to get a percentage of workers as opposed to the entire plant.
Volkswagen has been somewhat helpful to the UAW, releasing a policy Nov. 12 that sets guidelines essentially supporting the move to unionize a percentage of workers. The policy establishes three different levels that grant a labor group different bargaining rights, depending on how many signatures it gets.
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