Blog

UAW Narrowly Loses at VW

By Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, P.C.

June 27, 2019

Volkswagen Chattanooga employees on June 14 narrowly defeated the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) for the second time in five years with 776 voting for union representation (48.2%) and 833 voting against it (51.8%).  A swing of 29 votes would have changed the outcome.  In 2014, 626 voted Yes (46.8%) and 712 voted No (53.2%); a swing of 44 votes would have changed that outcome.  In 2015, the UAW won a vote at VW involving skilled trades employees, but after its inability to gain a first contract, the UAW walked away from that unit to seek last week's plant-wide vote. The next step is for the NLRB to certify the election results or for the UAW to file election objections, which would delay the certification of results. Assuming the results are certified, the UAW will have to wait 12 months before another election can be held. Clearly, with two close elections, employee relations issues continue at VW.
 
While we don't know the issues that are allowing the UAW to close a narrow gap at VW, we've seen the following issues arise during campaigns we've handled for manufacturers nationally during the past 18 months:

1.    Too much overtime, which may conflict with employee personal/family obligations.
2.    With an increase in the number of employees, break rooms/rest rooms are too crowded, leading to employees having insufficient time for breaks.
3.    Heat/fatigue.
4.    Lack of adequate training for new hires.
5.    Supervisors: In some situations, they're paid less than production employees if supervisors are not paid overtime, which may affect supervisor attitudes and in turn those they lead.
6.    Inadequate maintenance support, which frustrates operators and maintenance staff.
7.    Pay:  Lack of more than incremental increases and failure to reward individual performance metrics, such as  productivity, quality, safety and attendance.
8.    Distance from the leadership team, including supervisors.
9.    Lack of "face time" communications: lots of information on screens and boards, but not in person.
10.    Human Resources is inaccessible or not leading culturally; HR being too compliance-focused rather than people-focused.

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