Workers rely on Foundation-won precedent establishing that union demands for organizing assistance can violate federal labor law
Washington, DC (March 13, 2014) – Employees at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee facility have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block further collusion between the company and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union should the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) order a new unionization election at VW's Chattanooga plant.
With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the workers filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
After losing last month's unionization election, UAW union officials filed objections with the NLRB seeking to overturn the election results. Five VW workers represented by Right to Work Foundation attorneys then successfully moved to intervene in the UAW's challenge of the election results.
The new suit relies on Foundation-won precedent upheld by a federal appeals court that a Florida casino company's assistance to union officials during a card check unionization campaign could constitute "thing[s] of value" under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). Under the LMRA, employers are prohibited from handing over "any money or other thing of value" to union officials, a provision that is supposed to prevent them from selling out workers' rights in exchange for corporate concessions.
Late last year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments and then "dismissed as improvidently granted" a union appeal of a federal court ruling that these neutrality schemes could violate federal law, thus leaving the lower court's ruling intact.
The suit contends that the neutrality arrangement between VW and UAW union organizers contain numerous such prohibited provisions, including mandatory pro-union meetings, use of company property by outside UAW organizers, and clauses preventing VW and its managers from opposing unionization, all of which were implemented in the lead up to the vote that UAW lost 712-626.
In exchange for that valuable organizing assistance, the UAW promised the company that, once workers were unionized, UAW officials would delegate many of the union's duties to a German-style Works Council, limit bargaining demands to ensure company "cost advantages," and not go on strike. Further, the UAW promised not to make negative comments about VW or to conduct organizing activity for one year if the union lost the election.
"UAW union officials and Volkswagen management have colluded to deprive these workers of a fair vote from the start," said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. "Enough is enough, which is why these workers are seeking to prevent further VW assistance to the UAW's organizing efforts."