Five workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., were granted permission by the National Labor Relations Board Monday to weigh in on an effort by the United Auto Workers to overturn the VW workers' vote rejecting collective bargaining. A regional NLRB director said that owing to the "unique circumstances of this case" the workers should be allowed to intervene even though this would be "deviating" from the board's normal practice.
In others words, the workers will be granted a say in whether the NLRB decides to overrule their decision to reject the UAW's organizing bid.
On Feb. 14, the plant workers rejected UAW's organizing bid in a 712-626 vote. The union subsequently claimed that public comments by state Republican officials, particularly Sen. Bob Corker, interfered with the vote. They have called on the NLRB to set aside the results and order a re-vote.
"We are very pleased that despite attempts by Volkswagen and UAW officials to keep workers out of this process, the acting regional director has ruled that the workers are entitled to defend their vote to keep the UAW out of their workplace. The decision over whether or not to unionize is supposed lie with the workers, which makes the attempt by VW and the UAW to shut them out of this process all the more shameful," said Pat Semmens, spokesman for the National Right To Work Legal Foundation, which helped organize opposition to UAW's bid.
A UAW spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
The UAW's complaint is unusual for several reasons. under pressure from its German union, VW officials did not oppose the union's bid to organize the workers and even tacitly backed the effort. The loss therefore surprised many.
The union had actually opposed allowing the workers to vote in the first place. It wanted VW to recognize the union based on its claim that it had gotten majority support through the card check process. Some workers alleged the union had used deceptive practices to get the cards. The NLRB dismissed those complaints even though it found some evidence of fraud. The board said that wasn't a violation because fraud is only an issue if the effort is successful -- since VW rejected having a card-check election, there was no violation.
Most NLRB complaints alleging vote interference involve management, the union or both. The UAW's complaint alleges interference by third parties -- the GOP lawmakers -- who did not participate in the vote and simply watched from the sidelines. Corker has said that if the NLRB accepts the UAW's complaint it will have the effect of muzzling lawmakers, preventing them from discussing union elections.