UAW says majority of workers at VW Tennessee plant seek to join union

(Reuters) – The United Auto Workers said on Tuesday that a majority of workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant have signed cards to join the union.

In November, the UAW said it was launching a first-of-its-kind push to publicly organize the entire nonunion auto sector in the U.S. after winning record new contracts with the Detroit Three automakers.

VW, which says about 4,100 workers at the plant that produces the Atlas and ID.4 are eligible to join a union, said the company respects “our workers’ right to decide the question of union representation. And we remain committed to providing accurate information that helps inform them of their rights and choices.”

The UAW has for decades unsuccessfully sought to organize auto factories operated by foreign automakers. Efforts to organize Nissan Motor plants in Mississippi and Tennessee failed by wide margins, and two attempts to organize VW’s plant in Chattanooga narrowly failed. In 2019, VW workers at the plant rejected union representation in an 833-776 vote.

The UAW in November announced campaigns at 13 nonunion automakers, including at Tesla, Toyota, Hyunda, Rivian, Nissan, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Senators last month pressed the automakers to remain neutral during organizing.

The UAW previously said more than 30% of workers at a Hyundai plant in Alabama and a similar percentage at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama, had signed cards to join the union as well.

The UAW’s deals with General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis included an immediate pay hike of 11% and a 25% increase in base wages through 2028. They also cut the time needed to reach top pay to three years from eight years and boost the pay of temporary workers by 150% and make them permanent.

VW said in November it would hike pay for Tennessee factory workers by 11%, joining several foreign automakers who have announced significant pay and other compensation improvements in response to the UAW contract.

Those automakers employ nearly 150,000 workers at their U.S. assembly plants, about the same number as those employed by the Detroit Three companies.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Aurora Ellis and Matthew Lewis