The multi-year saga of the United Auto Workers’ attempt to unionize the U.S. plants of foreign-owned car makers is far from over.
In fact, despite the UAW winning a December election to unionize a small segment of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN workforce, the UAW may be a long way off from ever seeing a contract—if at all—in the South.
Since the UAW filed for the election to represent the maintenance employees, Volkswagen has argued against the smaller “micro-union” approach that the UAW took.
Since the UAW won its election, Volkswagen has refused to bargain with the UAW which, as Vorys labor attorney Allen S. Kinzer notes, sets up VW’s opportunity to have its case heard in the federal courts—a process that could take years.
On December 14, the NLRB certified the UAW as the exclusive bargaining agent for a unit of 165 skilled maintenance workers based on the UAW’s December 4 election victory. VW has contested the legitimacy of a union election over such a small unit in a facility of over 1,400 production and maintenance employees. VW contends that the 165 skilled maintenance workers share an overwhelming community of interests with the other production and maintenance workers at the Chattanooga facility. Thus, VW argues that the appropriate bargaining unit consists of all 1,400 workers.
Under the NLRA, VW’s only means to challenge the micro-unit in its facility is to refuse to bargain with the UAW. An NLRB Administrative Law Judge will likely find a violation of the federal labor law, which sets up an appeal to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C., and then an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals. Unless VW relents, this appeal process could take three years. [Emphasis added.]
Years from now, if the federal courts were to rule against VW and its appeal, then VW could potentially appeal its case to the U.S. Supreme Court—or, the company could sit down and start bargaining with the union.
If the latter were to occur, as there is no legal requirement for the company and union to agree, the bargaining of a contract could take years longer.