UAW’s Fain travels to Tennessee to pressure VW management on organizing drive

The UAW said President Shawn Fain was in Chattanooga on Monday with a delegation of about 150 Volkswagen Group plant workers and community supporters to deliver a letter to VW management.

The letter demanded that the German company “end its union-busting and intimidation” of workers seeking union recognition at the automaker’s U.S. assembly plant, the UAW said.

VW management refused to accept the letter, a UAW spokesman said. A Volkswagen spokesperson, however, said management did indeed accept the letter Monday from employees inside the factory.

Workers are filing a federal labor charge against Volkswagen “for unlawful company policies concerning social media, dress code and flyering that have a chilling effect on workers’ rights to stand up and speak out publicly about their working conditions and the need to unionize,” the UAW said.

The move comes after the UAW last week filed unfair labor practice charges against Volkswagen, Honda and Hyundai, citing aggressive anti-union campaigns to deter workers from organizing.

“Volkswagen refutes any claims of union-busting, intimidation or illegal violations of worker rights at our Chattanooga plant,” a spokesperson for the automaker said in an emailed statement to Automotive News.

“Labor representation is part of our company’s culture; half of our global supervisory board members are labor representatives. We respect our workers’ right to decide the question of union representation. And we remain committed to providing accurate information that helps inform them of their rights and choices.”

The UAW has said more than 1,000 factory workers at the company’s Tennessee assembly plant have signed union authorization cards, amounting to more than 30 percent.

The UAW declined to specify how many Chattanooga workers have signed union authorization cards as of Monday but said “it’s much higher” than 1,000. The UAW added that more workers have already signed cards at the Chattanooga plant than the total amount of voters in the unsuccessful 2019 vote there.

In November, Volkswagen said it would increase salaries by 11 percent for production workers at the plant.

The UAW has announced organizing drives covering as many as 150,000 workers at 13 nonunion automakers in the U.S., including Tesla, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen.

Fain has promised to ramp up the UAW’s organizing efforts following the ratification of new labor contracts with the Detroit 3 this fall. The union struck various General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis operations for more than a month.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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