UAW legal test of Volkswagen vote would be problematic

Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:36pm EST
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By Amanda Becker and Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Workers at a Tennessee Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) plant were bombarded with strong anti-union messages before and during their vote to reject unionizing last week, but a legal challenge to the outcome over unfair interference would be difficult to mount.

Tennessee U.S. Senator Bob Corker, other Republican politicians in the state, and several anti-union pressure groups from Washington slugged it out with the United Auto Workers in the campaign to win over employees at the Chattanooga plant.

Even though VW management allowed the UAW to have limited access to the workforce on company property and publicly took a "neutral" stance over the vote, the workers voted not to join the union, which has been unable to expand into non-union plants in the U.S. South.

The UAW has not ruled out a challenge, saying it will "evaluate" the conduct in the campaign. UAW President Bob King said after the ballots were counted on Friday night that the union was "outraged at the outside interference in this election."

President Barack Obama on Friday accused politicians in Chattanooga of being "more concerned about German shareholders than American workers," according to a Democratic aide who heard the remarks at a closed meeting with lawmakers.

U.S. labor law carefully restricts what employers and unions can say during a unionization campaign, according to labor lawyers and academics. But outsiders, especially politicians, have relatively free rein to say what they want.

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board supervised the Chattanooga vote, as it does other union elections.

The NLRB was expected to certify the results soon. After that, any protest must be made within seven days to NLRB Regional Director Claude Harrell Jr., in the agency's Atlanta office.   Continued...

A general view of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga,Tennessee February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry