DETROIT (AP) — Workers at Volkswagen's only U.S. factory will decide next week whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.
German automaker Volkswagen AG said Monday that it has asked the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a vote at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant Feb. 12 through 14. The plant, which makes the Passat sedan, has around 3,000 workers.
"Employees have the right to decide, by voting in a secret ballot election, on a matter that concerns their own interests," said Sebastian Patta, the plant's vice president of human resources, in a company statement. "Volkswagen respects this democratic right at all locations worldwide."
German law gives labor representatives half the seats on the Volkswagen's supervisory board, where some members have raised concerns about the Chattanooga plant being alone among the company's large factories without formal labor representation.
The vote is a partial victory for the UAW, which said in September that a majority of workers at the plant had signed cards supporting union representation. The union has had little success so far in organizing foreign-owned U.S. plants, particularly in the South. Currently, the UAW represents just one foreign-owned U.S. factory, a Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill., with around 1,000 workers.
But while the UAW had hoped to represent the workers based on the signatures it collected, opponents — including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, both Republicans — had called for a secret ballot.
Workers at the Chattanooga plant will vote on whether to let the UAW establish a German-style works council which will represent employees on issues such as working conditions and plant efficiency. The UAW would negotiate wages and benefits. Under Tennessee's right-to-work law, workers would not have to join the union to be represented.