Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Sounds weird doesn't it? But something similar may be in the works at VW's new plant in Chattanooga. According to a Wall Street Journal article last month, the UAW is seeking to represent workers at the plant or, in the alternative, set up some form of employee voice based on German works councils. Helping the union's goal is the fact that VW has promised to be neutral in the press and has signed onto a global VW charter that gives employees the right to form works councils; Chattanooga is the only VW plant without one.
Of course, a true works council--which is technically separate from union representation--is impossible in the U.S. without a valid selection of a labor organization by a majority of employees. This is what the UAW would prefer. But what's interesting is what may happen if the union falls short. According to the article, the plant already has employee representation on committees that look at safety, bonuses, and peer reviews. However, those committees, as well as a future "works council," have to be careful not to run afoul of Section 8(a)(2). It's unclear whether the current committees are in trouble under Section 8(a)(2), or how a future works council would avoid a violation, although there's probably not a mad rush to file a charge even if there was a problem (although it only takes one upset employee and a lawyer willing to represent him or her, neither of which are that hard to find). Tennessee is by no means a pro-union state, but it has welcomed experimental employer/employee models before (remember Saturn?), so stay tuned.
Hat Tip: Barry Hirsch