Despite losing the union election at VW in February by a vote of 712-626, the UAW has announced that it is forming a local union to represent the workers at VW. Additionally, VW management and the German union, IG Metall, have agreed that the UAW Local will have a seat on VW’s Works Council that bargains with VW globally.
The UAW claims that it will not charge dues for membership into the UAW Local until VW and the UAW Local actually negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. Also, the UAW states that it will not demand to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with VW until the UAW Local has a majority of VW’s Chattanooga workers as members.
Thus, with the help of VW management and the IG Metall union, the UAW is taking a different route to gain recognition by VW.
The UAW has also announced the same plan at Mercedes in Alabama. The UAW has never filed an NLRB election petition at Mercedes, but it is forming a UAW Local with the same deal from Mercedes management and the IG Metall union. The UAW Local will have a seat on the Daimler World Employee Committee.
The UAW’s efforts to organize the transplants has been stymied because the UAW has never been able to convince a majority of the employees to vote “yes” for the UAW in a secret ballot election. Consequently, the UAW is taking a different approach. It still must sell “membership” to the VW and Mercedes employees. The strategy appears to be that with membership on the international bargaining committees, the UAW Locals will have a legitimacy that will help them sell membership.
The strategy is reminiscent of that proposed by retired Law Professor Charles Morris in his book, The Blue Eagle at Work. In the book, Professor Morris argues that employers are required to bargain with minority “member-only” unions under the NLRA. He proposed that unions should use this strategy to grow union membership, as opposed to using the NLRB election route.
It will be interesting to see how this develops and whether the UAW can sell this form of membership to the unions. Certainly this new approach would not be possible without the assistance of management and the German union.