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article imageVW's US workers to vote on union representation

By AFP     Feb 3, 2014 in Business

Workers at Volkswagen's US plant will vote next week on whether to form a union and win a seat on the German automaker's global works council, the United Auto Workers said Monday.

The union has never managed to organize the US plant of a foreign automaker and a win at VW's Chattanooga, Tennessee facility would be a historic victory.

Despite strong traditions of organized labor in their home countries, German, Japanese and South Korean automakers have strongly resisted unionization efforts in the United States.

Success at VW would increase pressure on fellow German automakers BMW and Daimler AG to open the door to unionization efforts at their US facilities.

It could even boost the union's claims for recognition at factories run by Japan's Nissan, Honda and Toyota and South Korea's Kia and Hyundai.

The UAW has Volkswagen to thank for helping it get this far.

The Tennessee plant is the only major VW facility without labor representation.

Under pressure from German unions, VW's management entered talks with the UAW in September to find a way to get its US workers a seat on the global works council, which gives employees a say in the management of the company.

Such councils are only allowed in the United States if they include union representatives.

The UAW praised Volkswagen's focus on "co-determination" and strong record of good labor relations.

The union hopes to partner with Volkswagen to "set a new standard in the US for innovative labor-management relations that benefits the company, the entire workforce, shareholders and the community," UAW President Bob King said in a statement.

The German model is more collaborative than traditional American labor relations. The works council helps find solutions to day-to-day problems while the union's role is limited to contractual issues like working hours, compensation and benefits.

"Employees have the right to decide, by voting in a secret ballot election, on a matter that concerns their own interests," Sebastian Patta, VW's head of human relations at the plant, said in a statement. "Volkswagen respects this democratic right at all locations worldwide."

The vote will be conducted by the National Labor Relations Board from February 12 through 14.

It comes after a majority of the plant's 1,700 workers signed cards requesting union representation.

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