Volkswagen AG has been in talks with the United Auto Workers union over the possibility of establishing a German-style labor board at its assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to Horst Neumann, VW's board member responsible for human resources. This could mean that the UAW may soon be a step closer to representing hourly workers at the Chattanooga plant.
The talks represent a U-turn for Volkswagen, which had been against opening its Chattanooga site to the UAW. Bob King, UAW President, welcomed Neumann's comments as well as the German system in which labor is given a hand in running companies. King described the system as "completely consistent with the UAW's 21st century model of unionism," which is centered on a less adversarial relationship with companies.
In a statement, King remarked that the UAW is interested in the specific model that VW will propose. He added that the UAW is looking forward to an “open, fair and respectful dialogue, and cooperation” with the German carmaker, as they have expressed in their vision of the 21st century UAW.
Neumann was quoted by Automotive News and the Detroit News as saying that Volkswagen may release a plan for the works council labor board in May or June 2013, adding that formal talks with a union could commence as early as the second half of year if VW's managing board approves.
A spokesman for the German carmaker confirmed Neumann’s comments, adding that the board member also said that the UAW is not the only option. If the UAW managed to represent workers at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant, it could potentially pave the way to representing workers at Mercedes and BMW's plants in the US.