UAW can still unionize Volkswagen Tennessee plant after failed drive: experts

Wed Apr 30, 2014 3:28pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers still has several options to unionize Volkswagen AG's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) Tennessee car plant, labor law experts said on Wednesday, after it failed to win enough support and last week dropped its challenge to the election results.

The UAW faces a one-year waiting period, under U.S. labor law, before it can hold another official secret ballot election at the Chattanooga facility after workers at the plant voted 712-626 on February 12-14 not to join the union.

The UAW challenged the results, saying the election was poisoned by the anti-union groups. But last week, it unexpectedly abandoned its appeal to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, minutes before a hearing was scheduled to begin, saying the challenge could drag on for years.

Experts said the UAW could instead try to organize a smaller, specialized unit of workers, work with VW to hold a private election, or gain recognition through a process called card check.

Organizing only some workers, perhaps those in the union-friendly body shop, would be an unusual approach for the UAW, but it could work if the union could show that most workers in the sub-unit wanted union representation.

"I wouldn't be shocked if a scenario like that were to unfold," speculated Larry Drapkin, a labor attorney at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles, adding he had no direct knowledge of plans at the UAW or at Volkswagen.

If the UAW tried a sub-unit election, it would still have to wait a year, under NLRB rules.

On Wednesday, union and Volkswagen officials offered no comment on speculation that the UAW might be able to find an alternate route into the VW plant.   Continued...

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