New midsize SUV from Volkswagen to be produced in Chattanooga (Concept car shown)
Credit Copyright Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Saying that the United States "is and will remain one of the most important markets for Volkswagen," officials at Volkswagen announced that the Chattanooga, Tennessee plant will assemble the company's new midsize, seven-passenger SUV. About $600 million will be invested in new production, and 2,000 new jobs are expected to be added.
"This is also a strong signal for the US as an industrial and automobile production location," said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, in a prepared statement.
The United Auto Workers' newest local union is forming in Chattanooga with workers from the same plant where the UAW was rejected earlier this year. Called UAW Local 42, it's UAW’s latest effort to organize in the South.
In February, the UAW tried to unionize the entire VW Chattanooga auto plant, with cooperation from the company itself. That bid was rejected in a 712-626 vote. But UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel says he believes this renewed effort will succeed.
"The main reason," Casteel says, "I think, is because there's no election involved here. There's no opportunity for third-party interference."
During the UAW’s original bid to unionize the plant, Senator Bob Corker and other conservative politicians had weighed in, urging workers to reject the union. Formation of this new local union doesn’t require a vote—just signatures from 15 employees. But it also lacks official recognition from Volkswagen. If the local union grows to represent the entire VW Chattanooga workforce, it would be the first foreign-owned auto plant to unionize in the South.
Many questions remain: is this new union a step toward a German-style works council at the plant? What, if anything, does this have to do with the new SUV that may be produced at the plant? This audio features excerpts from the press conference and analysis from Chloe Morrison, a reporter at our news partner Nooga.com.
UPDATE 7/11/14 at 1:30 p.m.: Senator Bob Corker's office has responded to the UAW annoucement.
“There has been some confusion about what happened yesterday related to the UAW’s announcement that they are opening an office in Chattanooga and its impact on Volkswagen's expansion considerations,” said Todd Womack, Corker’s chief of staff, in a prepared statement. “The fact is, nothing happened. Any union can rent space in any city and open an office. Volkswagen made it very clear in their statement that they have no agreement whatsoever with the UAW."
U.S. Senator Bob Corker is commenting on the United Auto Workers' withdrawal of their appeal of the recent UAW vote at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant. "It's time for VW, our state and our community to re-engage and move forward with bringing additional jobs to Chattanooga," Corker said in a statement this morning.
In February, the UAW had sought to unionize the plant and narrowly lost in a 712-626 vote. The UAW then appealed the vote, saying that Corker and other politicians had interfered.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the National Labor Relations Board will conduct a hearing in Chattanooga to determine whether a second vote should happen at the Volkswagen plant where workers narrowly rejected the United Auto Workers' bid for representation. The hearing was originally scheduled for April 7.
However, according to a NLRB spokesperson, the hearing has now been rescheduled to April 21st.
The recall affects 2012 and 2013 Passat vehicles made in Chattanooga, and more than 150,000 of the vehicles are involved. In a statement on its Web site, Volkswagen says low-beam headlights on the cars could stop working if the hood is closed roughly or dropped from a certain height, which could cause reduced visibility of the vehicle. Volkswagen says, if that happens, a warning in the instrument cluster will immediately alert the driver. VW has notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and plans to notify all owners of Passat vehicles involved in the recall.
The United Auto Workers are appealing last week's election results at Chattanooga's Volkswagen manufacturing plant. In the UAW's objection, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the UAW claims that Tennessee politicians such as State Senator Bo Watson "conducted what appears to have been a coordinated and widely-publicized coercive campaign... to deprive VWGOA workers of their federally-protected right, through the Election, to support and select the UAW as their exclusive representative... free of coercion, intimidation, threats and interference."
When workers at a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga narrowly rejected the United Auto Workers in a recent vote on whether to unionize, it was a stinging setback for a labor movement looking for a big organizing victory in a Southern state.
The United Auto Workers failed to unionize Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant last week, but how soon might they return? Nooga.com reporter Chloé Morrison joins WUTC's Michael Edward Miller for a discussion of what's ahead.
Workers at the Volkswagen auto assembly plant in Chattanooga have rejected representation from the United Auto Workers. The vote was a disappointment for the UAW, which lost by a narrow margin. About 1,300 workers voted, and anti-union forces won by only 86 votes. UAW President Bob King said that to lose by such a close margin is very difficult.
"Obviously, we’re deeply disappointed," King said after results were announced.
After a week of local and state politicians speaking out about the ongoing unionization vote at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant, President Obama has joined the discussion, "accusing Republican politicians who oppose unionization of being more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers," according to Reuters.
Chattanooga has been named as a likely site for production of Volkswagen's newest sport utility vehicle. But U.S. Senator Bob Corker says if plant workers decide to reject the United Auto Workers, that could clinch the deal.
The unionization vote at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant has spurred impassioned debate. Various pro-union and anti-union organizations are in the Scenic City, attempting to persuade local VW workers to vote one way or another. One group put up billboards around town that say, “Auto Unions Ate Detroit. Next Meal: Chattanooga?”