The United Auto Workers (UAW) accused Volkswagen Tuesday of ignoring a commitment it made to organized labor in 2014.
UAW and Volkswagen have been in a bitter labor dispute for the last couple of years. Volkswagen was originally open to the idea of its workforce organizing, but opposed the union for trying to split its employees between union and nonunion. The automaker has instead advocated for a full vote of the more than 1,400 plant workers. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel released a document allegedly showing the automaker ignored a pledge it made in 2014.
“Volkswagen never fulfilled its commitments to recognize the union as a representative of its members,” Castell said during a conference call, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. “The unfulfilled commitment is at the heart of the ongoing disagreement between the company and the union.”
Volkswagen allegedly agreed in a written statement to recognize the union at the time. Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson countered the claim by noting the written statement was not a contract. Rather, it was a policy to allow a formal meeting between the automaker and union leadership. It was not meant to be considered a collective bargaining agreement.
“We reached a consensus with them on how to proceed after the initial vote,” Wilson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This arrangement provides various employee organizations with the opportunity to represent the interests of the employees in Chattanooga.”
Volkswagen even made its commitment official November, 2014, when it released its Community Organization Engagement Policy.
“Volkswagen continues to respect the rights of its employees to decide freely the question of union representation,” Wilson continued. “But we believe that a union representation solely for the group of maintenance workers will divide the workforce and will not satisfy the shared interests of all employees.”
Casteel claims the written statement was actually a more formal agreement. He notes the automaker agreed to recognize the union if it dropped a legal challenge. Workers voted 712 to 626 against representation February, 2014, but the union challenged the outcome. It asserted labor opponents made workers unreasonably fearful of unionizing.
The union moved to organize who it could when it became clear it couldn’t get a majority vote. The union successfully organized a subgroup of 164 skilled workers Dec. 4, which Volkswagen has opposed. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in favor of the union, but the automaker has continued to oppose its workforce being split between union and nonunion.
Those opposed have also expressed concern over the timing of the unionization drive. The American Council of Employees (ACE) expressed concern in a Dec. 3 letter that the union was trying to take advantage of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. ACE has positioned itself as an alternative to the UAW.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleges the company intentionally programmed car engines to not properly detect emissions. About a month after the EPA complaint, the union filed paperwork with the NLRB seeking a union election. The scandal has garnered the automaker international backlash.
Volkswagen met with union leadership in Germany last month in hopes of resolving the dispute at its Tennessee plant. Volkswagen is a multinational automaker, but its main offices reside in Germany where the company was founded. They were unable to come to a compromise.
UAW did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.
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