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Auto Workers Group Loses Representation at Volkswagen’s Tennessee Plant

September 23, 2016

New 2012 VW Passat First Drive And Factory TourNew 2012 VW Passat First Drive And Factory Tour
Line inspection workers check out a Volkswagen Passat at the company's factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee.Photograph by Mark Elias—Bloomberg via Getty Images

A worker group created as an alternative to the United Auto Workers union at Volkswagen AG’s plant in Tennessee has failed to meet minimum membership requirements under the German automaker’s labor policy, VW said on Thursday.

The UAW has been verified as representing at least 45% of workers at the plant, allowing the union members to meet regularly with management.

The American Council of Employees (ACE) was formed on the heels of a February 2014 election in which the UAW lost the right to represent all of the plant’s 1,500 workers. Emboldened by the UAW’s loss, a nucleus of anti-UAW workers who founded ACE had visions of becoming the dominant worker representation group at the plant.

On Thursday, VW announced that the ACE’s membership among the plant’s workers had fallen below 15%, the threshold for recognition by VW.


After the UAW loss in 2014, VW set up an unconventional policy that would allow more than one worker group to represent workers in plant affairs. This does not include the right to collective bargaining for worker wages and benefits, as the UAW has at U.S. plants of General Motors (GM), Ford (F), and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU).

The VW policy allows increasing levels of access to plant management based on a group’s support level.

The UAW first was recognized by VW in December 2014. ACE won its recognition in February 2015.

Efforts to reach an attorney who has represented ACE workers were not successful. The group’s founding members are no longer employed at the VW plant.

The UAW claims that it has support of a majority of VW Chattanooga hourly plant workers. It has not attempted another plant vote because, its leaders have said, it does not believe a fair election could occur because of strong anti-union Tennessee politicians and national lobbying groups that it says influenced the February 2014 vote.

VW’s Thursday announcement does not affect the UAW’s effort to represent a subset of about 165 workers at the Chattanooga plant, including the right to collective bargaining.

In December 2015, that subset of skilled trades workers who maintain plant machinery voted to join the UAW, but VW has refused to bargain with them.

The National Labor Relations Board has sided with the UAW several times and ordered VW to the negotiating table. Having lost at the NLRB, VW earlier this month filed an appeal in federal court.