Rival labor group eyes membership at Volkswagen Tennessee plant

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CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee — A labor group seeking to rival the United Auto Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee says it won't submit its list of members to the management until next month.

Supporters of the American Council of Employees told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1A8PcA2) for Sunday's editions that they want a voice under the new labor policy Volkswagen announced in November that requires a minimum of 15 percent of workers to qualify for regular meetings with management and access to plant meeting space.

The UAW, which lost a narrow union vote at the plant in February, submitted a list of its members almost immediately after the new policy was announced. An independent auditor last week verified that the union had signed up at least 45 percent of the workers at the plant.

That qualified the UAW for the top tier of the company's new labor policy, the first time the union has achieved a formal role within a plant owned by a foreign automaker in the South.

While the policy does not address collective bargaining or exclusive representation of workers, the UAW has vowed to press ahead to achieve those thresholds.

The American Council of Employees was formed by workers who opposed the UAW in the February vote. Leaders were unsuccessful in their call for Volkswagen to only accept membership cards signed after the new labor policy was announced in November, and are now arguing that the auditor counted several UAW cards that were "inaccurate, unreliable and out of date."

Volkswagen worker Mike Cantrell, the president of UAW Local 42, has called those claims as "bogus and without merit."

"UAW Local 42 is moving forward in collaborative talks with Volkswagen and will not be distracted by this nonsense," he said.

Meanwhile at the Nissan Motor Co. in Smyrna, The Daily News Journal reported that union officials allege that more than half of the plant's 8,000-plus workers are temporary employees.

"The majority of their workforce is employed by a third-party agency with no commitment whatsoever to the workers," said Mike Herron, chairman of the UAW Local 1853 that represents employees at the General Motors factory in Spring Hill.

UAW has twice attempted to unionize the 31-year-old Nissan factory when it had a larger makeup of direct employees, but was unable to persuade the majority of the workers to agree to the collective-bargaining representation.

Nissan spokesman Justin Saia declined to confirm or deny the UAW assertion that more than 60 percent of the workforce at the Smyrna car factory is temporary employees with a company contractor.

"We do not provide that level of detail concerning the operations of our plants for proprietary reasons," Saia said. "However, the use of contract workers (associates) is a common practice throughout the industry. We strive to maintain a level of associate workers that is complementary to these industry standards."


Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com

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