Analysis: UAW sees VW's German union model as best hope in South

Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:53pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - If the United Auto Workers is successful in organizing Volkswagen AG's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) plant in Tennessee, it will owe a lot to the unique relationship the automaker has with labor in Germany.

The powerful IG Metall union that represents Volkswagen's German workers is six times the size of the UAW, with 2.26 million members. IG Metall's outsized influence - labor representatives hold half the 20 seats on VW's supervisory board - could give the UAW its best chance yet to organize autoworkers at a foreign-owned plant in the South.

But it is not clear if VW's U.S. management is willing to support the UAW and its push for recognition in Chattanooga without a formal vote among the workers.

UAW President Bob King has, since he took office for a single four-year term in 2010, espoused the need to organize foreign-owned U.S. auto plants, and made known his desire for cooperation beyond national boundaries for his union. IG Metall's support could help him realize both goals.

After the UAW's organizing efforts failed to gain traction at South Korean and Japanese plants in the United States, the union now sees VW and its unique labor model as the best chance to expand its influence in the South.

Workers are represented at all of Volkswagen's fully owned plants, except at the company's 2-year-old factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The UAW is banking on the fact that Chattanooga is an outlier and that the company's executives in Germany want to bring the plant into the fold.


The UAW believes it has sufficient backing from Chattanooga workers to seek recognition by VW.   Continued...

Flags of Germany's metalworkers' union IG Metall (IGM) are pictured past the IGM headquarters in Frankfurt May 3, 2012. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski