Tennessee VW workers say company coercing them to join UAW


DETROIT, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Four workers from the VolkswagenAG plant in Tennessee filed charges on Wednesdaywith U.S. labor officials alleging that German VW officials arecoercing them to agree to United Auto Workers representation.

The four workers, assisted by the National Right to WorkLegal Defense Foundation, charged that the officials said theplant in Chattanooga would not get additional vehicle productionand future jobs unless a German-style form of representation wasinstalled at the plant.

Adopting the German-style representation, called a workscouncil, would "force workers to accept the representation ofUAW union officials," the anti-union group said in a statement.

The complaint was filed with the National Labor RelationsBoard's regional office in Atlanta.

Volkswagen has said it is in talks with UAW officials aboutestablishing a works council at Chattanooga. VW has a workscouncil at all of its other fully-owned plants around the world.

U.S. labor law requires that any such council be recognizedthrough a U.S. trade union, or else be considered a companyunion, which is illegal.

The UAW says it has majority support of the Chattanoogaworkers to represent them, while workers supported by the right-to-work organization seek an anti-UAW petition signed by amajority of workers at the plant.

The four workers, according to the group, say that pairingadditional production and jobs at the plant to accepting the UAW"interferes with Chattanooga facility employees' rights tochoose whether or not to engage in self-organization to form,join, or assist labor organizations."

Last week, Bernd Osterloh, head of VW's global workscouncil, said he will continue to work with the UAW on forming aworks council, in which both blue- and white-collar workers atthe 2-year-old VW plant would participate.

Osterloh also said that forming a council was important ifthe plant wanted a second model in the future, in addition tothe Passat sedan currently built there.

"We know how important that vehicle is for Chattanooga," Osterloh, who as deputy VW chairman has a say on productiondecisions, said in a statement last week.

"It would be good if the Chattanooga factory already had aworks council," Osterloh said, "because what's also at stake atthe moment is another model for our U.S. factory."

Volkswagen is considering whether to place production of aseven-passenger crossover vehicle either at a plant it owns inMexico or in Chattanooga.

A VW spokesman declined to comment.

The UAW did not offer immediate comment when reached onWednesday.

In the past, the UAW has often said that when it tries toorganize a foreign-owned auto plant or supplier in the U.S.South, the company or right-to-work organizations tell workersthat allowing a union to represent them would lead to shuttingthe plant.

"With reports that Volkswagen is considering Chattanooga tobuild its new SUV, this is no idle threat," said Mark Mix,president of the National Right to Work Foundation. "If VWmanagement was discouraging workers from joining the UAW withthreats, there's little question that an NLRB prosecution wouldhave already begun at the UAW's behest," he said.

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