The Chattanooga VW Plant Is At Center Of UAW Push To Unionize The Entire Auto Industry

A UAW organizing push not seen in decades is well underway, with the focus on a VW plant in Tennessee.

The New York Times reports:

“When Shawn Fain, the United Automobile Workers president, unveiled the deal that ended six weeks of strikes at Ford Motor in the fall, he framed it as part of a longer campaign. Next, he declared, would be the task of organizing nonunion plants across the country.

‘One of our biggest goals coming out of this historic contract victory is to organize like we’ve never organized before,’ he said at the time. ‘When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big Three. It will be the Big Five or Big Six.’

Four months later, the first test of that strategy has come into focus, and it features a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

According to the union, more than half of over 4,000 eligible workers have signed cards indicating support for a union. Workers say they have done so because they want higher pay, more paid time off and more generous health benefits — and because the recent strikes at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis persuaded them that a union can help win these concessions.

‘The Big Three, they had their big campaign, and their big strike and vote, and new contracts — we paid attention to that very closely,’ said Yolanda Peoples, who has worked at the Volkswagen plant for nearly 13 years.

The Volkswagen plant announced an 11 percent pay increase shortly after the strikes at the Big Three. The raise brought the top hourly wage for production workers to $32.40, but the comparable wage for the Detroit automakers will exceed $40 by the end of the new contracts. (Volkswagen said the wage adjustment was part of a yearly review.)

Unions need a simple majority of votes to win, but the U.A.W. says it won’t file for an election at the Chattanooga plant until 70 percent of the plant’s workers have signed cards and workers have built an extensive organizing committee, which union officials expect in the next month.

The caution reflects the U.A.W.’s experience in the South, where past campaigns fell short.

But the stakes may be even higher this time given the union’s investment in organizing several plants at once — including a Mercedes-Benz factory in Alabama, where more than 50 percent of workers have signed cards, and a Hyundai plant in Alabama, where the union has cards from more than 30 percent of workers.”

For the rest of the story, visit The New York Times here.

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