Senators Want Answers from VW about Union-Busting
The automaker is holding captive audience meetings, while claiming to stay neutral in the union election
The controversy around a union election at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, TN. is nothing new. For years, the automaker has been fighting to stop the United Autoworkers from organizing the plant, while at the same time claiming that the company is staying neutral in negotiations. The car company even went so far as filing and winning a case before the NLRB to delay an upcoming union vote.
With the company speaking out of both sides of their mouth, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a letter to the company seeking clarification on Volkswagen’s position on the union. In the letter, which was sent on May 21, the Senators accused the company of stalling on a union election to bolster "anti-union campaigns to target and intimidate workers.” Included in the letter were 11 questions that the Senators wanted to be answered explaining why they shouldn’t consider Volkswagen’s actions as union-busting.
On Thursday, VW responded to the Senator’s inquiry with a two-paragraph letter. In the letter, VW reiterated their standard talking points that the union wasn’t following the rules and that they are staying neutral in the union election.
Of course, the claim of neutrality in the election is a blatant lie. Emails obtained by The Intercept show that the company was working with Tennessee’s anti-union Governor, even sending emails to the Governor’s staff asking for time to brief him on the progress of the VW union. They also coordinated a site visit for April 29th, the date that UAW wanted to schedule a union vote. The visit turned into a captive audience meeting as production was stopped and employees were forced to listen to Governor Bill Lee drone on for 20 minutes about the importance of a direct relationship with management, often a code word that management uses to discourage employees from supporting a union. LaborNotes has obtained a recording of Lee’s speech and you can listen to it below.
While Governor Lee may be siding with the company Senators Stabenow, Peters, and Brown were not happy with VW’s response. “This response from VW is not enough,” said Senator Stabenow. “Workers need answers from VW on how it will ensure free and fair union elections.” Senator Brown followed that up by saying that if the company was truly interested in staying neutral, it is their duty to protect employees from all anti-union intimidation and harassment.
With a union election tentatively set to be held from June 12-14th expect more overt and behind the scenes union busting from VW and their allies in state government.