The United Auto Workers union says 30% of Volkswagen employees at the company’s Tennessee plant have joined the nationwide effort to organize labor across the automotive industry.
It took only a week from the UAW launching its latest unionization campaign for roughly a third of the German automaker’s U.S. manufacturing workers to sign union authorization cards, officially signaling their desire to organize at the plant. The facility, located in Chatanooga, is the only Volkswagen plant in the U.S. and employs several thousand automotive professionals. United Auto Workers members are presently campaigning at 13 undisclosed non-unionized car brands, with plans to make their progress public at each company once support hits 30%.
Employees at the Volkswagen facility have also assembled an organizing committee, setting the team up to join the UAW once the decision is made to unionize. That decision relies on a simple majority vote across the company’s manufacturing employees, who have turned down unionization twice within the last decade by narrow margins. However, United Auto Workers leaders, coming off their historic victories against the Detroit-Three, believe that sentiments have shifted in favor of organized labor in recent years, even in the South, where right-to-work laws heavily handicap unionization efforts. Part of this is due to a generational shift; older workers have been replaced with younger professionals who bring higher expectations of their employers, especially after the COVID pandemic when many companies posted record-breaking profits but failed to improve working conditions.
Volkswagen, who kept its involvement limited in the previous unionization votes, issued a statement on its website in which it underlined recent pay raises and an ongoing commitment to providing a high-quality job environment. Nevertheless, the automaker noted it would “respect the right of our workers to determine who should represent their interests in the workplace.” Since October, numerous automakers have responded to the new United Auto Workers contracts with pay raises and benefits improvements for manufacturing employees in an attempt to keep their compensation competitive with the Detroit-Three.