By Al Kinzer

Voting begins at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 12, and the polls close at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, February 14. By 11:00 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, Chattanooga will know whether the UAW has been certified as the exclusive union representing the Volkswagen workers at its Chattanooga plant.

VW has done a lot for the UAW inside the plant, including: 

  • Giving the UAW a room to meet with VW workers to convince them to vote “yes”;
  • Giving the UAW tables in the cafeterias and break areas manned with UAW organizers to urge workers to vote “yes”;
  • Providing the UAW with bulletin and message boards to spread the UAW’s message; and
  • Holding joint meetings between VW management and the UAW to discuss their vision of UAW representation on VW’s Work Councils.

All of these activities are part of the “Agreement for a Representation Election” (pdf) between VW and UAW that has been posted in the plant. 

That Agreement provides that VW must grant the UAW access to VW workers during work time. It also states that VW management must train and counsel its supervisors and managers at the VW plant and on the Work Councils to remain neutral during the UAW election.

Interestingly, the Agreement discusses what collective bargaining will be like when the UAW is certified. The Agreement calls for interest arbitration to resolve any impasse to negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. This means that an arbitrator would decide on the terms of the VW-UAW bargaining agreement.

Outside the plant in Chattanooga, council members, former mayors, legislative leaders and the Governor of Tennessee are urging the VW workers to vote “no.” Various groups have filled billboards around the area urging a “no” vote. The National Right to Work Foundation continues to represent the group of VW workers actively opposing the UAW.

Years ago, exit polling was done during union elections by several universities and groups. When the union lost, one of the top reasons given by workers for voting “no” was that management opposed the union. By the end of the week, we are about to learn what can happen when management does not oppose a union, but actually helps the union campaign inside the plant.