VW appeal withdrawal seen as a good tactical move for the UAW

Article by Andrew Christian, on April 29, 2014

The United Auto Workers union suffered a narrow defeat in February over a unionization election at Volkswagen's Chattanooga site. It appealed its loss, saying that anti-union politicians have improperly interfered with the election. But just last week, the UAW retreated from the fight and withdrew its appeal.

The loss might be excruciating for the union, as it had seen Volkswagen as an ideal target for its unionization due to Germany's strong labor movement. However, the loss is not devastating and may be valuable for the UAW. A union statement said that the UAW is ready to put February's “tainted election in the rearview mirror.

It said that the union will instead focus on advocating for new jobs and economic investment in Chattanooga. By retreating from the VW election battle, UAW President Bob King could effectively convey the message that union is not just after memberships, but is also looking out for US workers.

The carmaker is nearing a decision on a possible expansion of the Chattanooga plant to produce a new crossover for the US market. Since the site’s expansion would depend on subsidy talks with union-averse Tennessee politicians, UAW’s appeal might just delay the investment or even shift it to Mexico.

Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island, told Automotive News that UAW insisting on the appeal would spell trouble for Volkswagen.

He noted that since the appeal has been withdrawn, the burden to secure the investment now rests with Tennessee politicians. He added that if VW decides not to invest at Chattanooga, the ones to be blamed will not be the union, but state politicians. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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