By Mark Clothier
Some details have emerged from a meeting of Volkswagen AG and the United Auto Workers last week in Germany to discuss establishing a German-style works council at the company’s Tennessee factory.
The Aug. 30 meeting in Wolfsburg, Germany, where VW is based, focused on Volkswagen’s recognition of the UAW at its Chattanooga plant and how to set up a works council, the automaker and union said in separate statements.
“In the U.S., a works council can only be realized together with a trade union,” Frank Fischer, the top manager of VW’s Tennessee plant, said in a letter to employees. “This is the reason why Volkswagen has started a dialogue with the UAW in order to check the possibility of implementing an innovative model of employee representation for all employees.”
The UAW’s membership rose 0.5 percent last year to 382,513, the union’s highest since 2008 and its third consecutive annual gain. The Detroit-based union wants to rebuild membership by trying to organize workers at the U.S. factories of Volkswagen and Nissan Motor Co. The UAW’s membership peaked at 1.5 million in 1979.
The union, in its statement, said every major VW assembly plant worldwide has worker representation and a seat on the VW global works council.
“It’s the workers in Chattanooga who will make the decision of representation and a works council,” according to the UAW statement.
UAW President Bob King has said the union’s future depends on expanding membership by organizing workers at the U.S. factories of European and Asian automakers. He failed in a pledge to organize one of those plants in 2011.