VW Chattanooga Plant To Vote On UAW Membership

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Next week in Tennessee, workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant will vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers. It's the first attempt to unionize a non-Detroit-run factory in 13 years. Volkswagen has given the drive its blessing but outside groups have stepped in to fight the union.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next week, workers at a Chattanooga auto plant run by Volkswagen will vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers. This is the first attempt in 13 years to unionize a plant that is not run by one of the big three Detroit automakers.

As Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports, Volkswagen has given the drive its blessing, so outside groups are stepping in to fight the union.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: The vote is happening because German Volkswagen officials pulled rank over their counterparts at Volkswagen of America, who didn't want the UAW in their plant.

Volkswagen sees a union as key to getting a German-style works council - managers and factory employees working together to improve efficiency.

Since Volkswagen isn't telling workers to vote no, others are. There's a group funded by the Koch brothers. Politicians like Senator Bob Corker are weighing in. He blame unions for Detroit's bankruptcy.

BOB KING: I think it's pretty crazy. I think outside third parties should let the workers decide.

SAMILTON: That's UAW president Bob King, who worked for years to get this vote. He says it's democracy in action.

Or, is it? Patrick Semmons is with the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, which opposes traditional unions. He fears Volkswagen isn't giving anti-union workers the same table to stand on as the pro-union workers.

PATRICK SEMMONS: That's not real neutrality if you say, these people can speak, these people can't.

SAMILTON: Both sides see huge consequences for losing. It's likely there will be very little peace in the workplace for people on the factory floor until the votes are tallied on February 14th.

For NPR News, I'm Tracy Samilton.

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