March 27 Workers at Volkswagen AG's
plant in Chattanooga Tennessee will make the decision whether
they want union representation, and the United Auto Workers is
just one option for them, VW's top executive in North America
told CNBC on Wednesday.
Jonathan Browning, head of Volkswagen of America, said in an
interview on the cable television network that the company
expects Chattanooga plant workers to have a strong voice in its
"We expect our employees to have a strong voice in
operations all around the world, not just in Chattanooga, but
any facility around the world," said Browning.
He said the workers will decide by a vote, but he did not
indicate when any such vote would take place.
"Our employees will be the ones who decide," Browning said.
"So the employees will decide by a vote whether they want to be
formally represented or not and the UAW is one of a number of
choices that they may make."
Browning said that Volkswagen has long held this stance
regarding workers at Chattanooga. He also did not say what other
options for union representation are open to Chattanooga's
Historically, auto plants in the American South have been
hostile to unions. In March 2012 the UAW tried to get signatures
of support from workers at the VW Chattanooga plant. The efforts
never gained traction.
Earlier this month, a letter from a top official at IG
Metall, the union that represents VW workers in Germany, to
Chattanooga plant workers urged them to join the UAW.
Also this month, Horst Neumann, VW's board member in charge
of human resources, said the company was in exploratory talks
with the UAW about setting up a German-style labor board at the
If the plant's workers decided to join the UAW, they would
be the first workforce of a foreign-owned major auto assembly
plant to do so in recent years.
Expanding his union's membership by organizing an assembly
plant of a foreign automaker has been a goal by UAW President
Bob King since his tenure began in mid-2010.
The UAW is hoping that the endorsement of the influential
German union IG Metall will boost its efforts to organize
workers in Chattanooga.
The union is also active in talking about organizing with
workers at two Nissan Motor Co plants, which are in
small cities near Jackson, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee.
Browning spoke to CNBC at the New York auto show.