By Amanda Becker and Kevin Drawbaugh
Anti-union Volkswagen workers will
get a chance to defend the results of a mid-February union
election that the United Auto Workers lost at a Chattanooga,
Tennessee VW plant, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board has
The unusual NLRB ruling on Monday gave anti-UAW groups,
including the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
and Southern Momentum, which back workers defending the
election, more leverage in the fight over unionizing the plant.
The ruling means that if the NLRB holds a hearing on the
dispute, the anti-UAW workers will be able to take part and
state their case, along with the UAW.
No hearing has been scheduled, though labor lawyers have
said there likely will be one, given VW's size and the
high-profile nature of the UAW challenge.
Moreover, the ruling gives the anti-UAW workers and their
allies the right to appeal any decision made by the NLRB's
Atlanta office to the full five-member board of the NLRB in
After years of declining membership, the UAW is trying to
expand into the American South among non-union, foreign-owned
auto plants. This effort last month collided with opposition
from senior Tennessee Republicans and others.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Governor Bill Haslam, as well as
business-backed groups from Washington, including one headed by
small-government crusader Grover Norquist, actively campaigned
against the UAW in Chattanooga.
The UAW lost its effort to organize the VW plant there when
workers voted 712-626 not to join the union. It then asked the
NLRB to set aside the results of the election, arguing that the
politicians and outside groups compromised the process.
The Chattanooga dispute is uncharted territory in several
ways. VW remained technically neutral during the UAW campaign,
but the German company gave the union access to its facilities
during the days leading up to the election. Employers often
oppose union campaigns, but VW did not and also said it would
not defend the election results before the board.
DECISION 'MONTHS OFF'
Former NLRB General Counsel Fred Feinstein predicted in an
interview on Monday that the Atlanta regional office's
determination in the case "is a couple of months off. And it
could take a lot longer than that."
Feinstein serves on the UAW's external review board, which
handles internal grievances and reviews the decisions made by
The NLRB's decision to allow the anti-UAW workers to
intervene in the union's election challenge means that they are
now parties to the case. Employers and unions are typically the
only parties to an election challenge. So, it is "pretty
unusual" for outside groups or workers to seek - much less
attain - that status, Feinstein said.
"It is different than being granted the ability to submit
what are essentially amicus briefs, or opinions on the law and
opinions about what happened," Feinstein said.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, based
in the Washington area, said in a statement that it was "very
pleased" with the NLRB decision.
A UAW representative declined to comment on the decision or
on whether the union will ask the NLRB's board to review it.
In the NLRB regional office's inquiry, both sides can submit
evidence. A hearing is common, but not mandated, lawyers said.
"The sole remedy here is ordering a new election," Feinstein
Feinstein predicted it could be weeks before a hearing,
which could last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.