By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT (Reuters) - Employees at the Volkswagen AG auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, are attempting to form a union that will include hourly and salaried workers as a counter to the United Auto Workers Local 42 established last month, a leading anti-UAW worker said on Tuesday.
Mike Burton, who helped anti-UAW workers defeat the UAW's effort to represent VW Chattanooga hourly workers six months ago, told Reuters he hopes the new union will force VW to hold another vote to determine which one is favored by hourly employees.
Burton said the proposed union local at Chattanooga will be the first chapter of what will be called the American Council of Employees. The new union will operate differently than the UAW, which he says hurts the competitiveness of unionized U.S. automakers.
Burton claims that since the February vote when the UAW lost by a 712-626 count, Volkswagen has drawn closer to that union, which is one of the main reasons he wants to create an alternative.
Burton said attorneys who helped him with an anti-UAW worker group called Southern Momentum during the February election at Chattanooga might help him with the ACE, but he did not elaborate.
Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, told Reuters on Tuesday he does not see how Burton's union stands much of a chance because VW and the UAW "have a consensus" that the company will recognize Local 42.
Casteel said it is up to VW whether it will recognize the new union if Burton is successful in creating one at the VW plant, which has about 1,500 hourly workers.
Casteel said Local 42 continues to gain support and now has "substantially more than 700 members, so there are not many workers left for the anti-union union to pick up."
He would not say whether Local 42 has more than 750 members, which would be a majority of hourly workers.
The UAW normally faces stiff opposition from companies when it tries to organize workers, but is not being opposed by VW at the Chattanooga plant. The UAW wants to use this unique situation among non-unionized auto plants in the United States to establish a foothold among foreign-owned factories in the south of the country.
VW has often said it wants to have Chattanooga representation on its global works council. Works council representation is in place at every major VW plant in the world except Chattanooga. In order for the Chattanooga workers to have works council representation, they must first be represented by a U.S. union, most labor law experts say.
Burton said that he and co-workers collected 108 signatures on Monday for a petition supporting the ACE. He hopes to get enough signatures to show VW that his union has widespread support in the plant.
VW plant officials were not immediately available.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall. Editing by Andre Grenon)