Volkswagen Rejects Auto Union Plea and Files Appeal on Labor Board Ruling

New 2012 VW Passat First Drive And Factory Tour
Line inspection workers check out a Volkswagen AG 2012 Passat at the company's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S., on Wednesday, June 1, 2011. Volkswagen of America Inc. reported May sales of 30,100 vehicles, a 27.9 percent increase from a year earlier. Photographer: Mark Elias/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Mark Elias — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Volkswagen AG said on Thursday it has filed an appeal of a federal labor board decision on its dispute with the United Auto Workers union in Tennessee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The National Labor Relations board on Aug. 26 sided with the UAW in the union’s effort to get VW to negotiate wages and benefits for about 160 of the 1,500 hourly workers at a VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The UAW urged Volkswagen to accept the board’s order that requires the carmaker to collectively bargain with the local union as the representative of a portion of workers at its Tennessee plant.

Thursday’s filing was expected. The NLRB decision for the UAW in the dispute was highly anticipated, and VW had previously said it would appeal if the ruling went against the German-based company.

The union sought to represent only a portion of the plant’s workers after it in February 2014 narrowly lost an election to represent all 1,500 hourly workers at the Chattanooga plant.

In December 2015, the union handily won the right to represent about 160 skilled trades workers who maintain machinery at the plant.

The UAW has never been able to win an organizing vote at a foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the U.S. south. A victory, even for only a portion of workers at the VW plant, would give the union a stronger foothold in the south, where most foreign-owned auto plants are located.

On Thursday, VW said in a statement that it “respects the right of all of our employees to decide the question of union representation. This is why we disagree with the decision to separate Volkswagen maintenance and production workers and will continue our effort to allow everyone to vote as one group on the matter of union representation.”

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said in a statement on Thursday evening that the union is “disappointed that Volkswagen is continuing to thumb its nose at the federal government. The federal courts have consistently upheld the NLRB labor standard that enabled the skilled-trades vote in Chattanooga.”

The UAW has for several years been assisted in its effort to organize workers in Tennessee by the powerful German union IG Metall, which has members on the VW Supervisory Board.

Earlier on Thursday, the head of IG Metall, Joerg Hofman, demanded that VW enter talks with the UAW-represented workers.

IG Metall in a statement said that Hofman “is calling for VW to no longer act contrary to American labor law, and to seek talks with UAW without delay.”

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