May 7, 2015 / 6:53 PM / 4 years ago

UAW wants new talks with Volkswagen to recognize union in Tennessee

DETROIT (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers said on Thursday it wants to enter new talks with Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) about recognizing the union as collective bargaining agent for workers at the German automaker’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

A general view of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga,Tennessee February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said the union made a renewed pitch to the company after a recent filing with U.S. labor officials showed the UAW is supported by 55 percent of hourly workers at the plant.

The American union failed last year to win an election held by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board that would have allowed the UAW to represent the plant’s workers.

In addition, an earlier series of talks between VW and the UAW yielded a limited set of agreements that gave the union an ability to represent part of the plants workers without engaging in collective bargaining.

Now, the UAW wants to form a German-style works council that would include both blue-collar and white-collar workers. Casteel told reporters that Chattanooga is the only VW plant without such a works council.

“There’s been lot of bumps in the road, but we think we’re getting to the point that it’s time to move to the full implementation and take this to the next level and put one in place for the first time in the U.S.,” Casteel said.

Casteel said there was no timetable for the process, but added “the quicker the better.”

VW said in a statement that Chattanooga managers over the past six months have met with UAW and anti-union representatives within the plant. The automaker said that approach has been “very effective” and would continue, but it did not address whether it would support the UAW’s push for talks or recognition.

Casteel said the effort for the new talks was not because the union felt it needed to push for recognition before VW hires up to an additional 2,000 workers as part of an expansion to build a mid-sized SUV next year. He said he was not concerned about convincing new hires to support the UAW.

In order to form the works council, under U.S. labor law, the plant’s hourly workers must be represented by a U.S. union with bargaining rights, in order that it not be perceived as a company union.

Casteel said the union has no plans to call for another election by plant workers. In February 2014, hourly workers rejected the UAW by a 712-626 count.

Additional reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Christian Plumb

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