Monday, September 9, 2013

Volkswagen, UAW Consider German-Style Work Councils for US Plant

Car_redvwThanks to Ron Turner (Houston) for bringing to my attention this article from The New York Times last week: VW and Auto Workers Explore Union at Tennessee Plan.

Apparently, Volkswagen is in the process of negotiating with the United Automobile Workers (UAW) at VW's Chattanooga, Tennessee plant on how to unionize the plant and create a German-style works council there.

A tidbit from the article:

The company would be the first German automaker to have such a council at a United States plant. A works council is a group of employees, including both white- and blue-collar workers, that meets with management on issues like working conditions and productivity.

But to avoid violating American labor laws, the plant would first have to be formally unionized, the company said . . . .

None of the foreign carmakers with auto plants in the South are currently unionized.

The part of the labor law that would be violated would  be Section 8(a)(2) of the NLRA which does not tolerate employer domination or assistance of labor organizations.  This provision makes employer-employee cooperation difficult in the union setting sometimes.  This is not an issue in Germany and other countries where employer-employee cooperation inside and outside the union environment is much more common.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if this arrangement actually comes to fruition and whether it might provide a model for other manufacturing plans, auto and otherwise, for running a productive workplace with sizable employee input.  Also good to see an open-minded employer not mindlessly fighting unionization at all cost and instead recognizing "them as a useful source of ideas from the shop floor and a vehicle to build consensus and employee morale."


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