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Volkswagen workers in Tennessee have voted to join the UAW

Credit: Volkswagen

Volkswagen workers at the company’s factory in Tennessee have officially voted to join the United Automotive Workers (UAW) after the union launched campaigns at Tesla, Volkswagen, and others last year.

According to a press release from the UAW on Friday, workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted to unionize this week, with 2,628 voting in favor and 985 voting against. The results will now require official National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certification, at which point Volkswagen would need to begin the process of collective bargaining with the UAW over pay and working conditions.

“This election is big,” said Kelcey Smith, a Volkswagen employee in the paint department. “People in high places told us good things can’t happen here in Chattanooga. They told us this isn’t the time to stand up, this isn’t the place. But we did stand up and we won. This is the time; this is the place. Southern workers are ready to stand up and win a better life.”

In a statement on Friday, Volkswagen said it “thanks its Chattanooga workers for voting in this election” (via Bloomberg).

UAW President Shawn Fain also responded to the news, calling Volkswagen “the first domino to fall.” He also said the union planned to use the victory as momentum to continue organizing at other automakers.

“I think it’s going to start a chain reaction,” Fain said on Friday. “Once we show the world that it is possible, I think it’s going to open the door for thousands of other workers, tens of thousands of other workers to join in and to get justice on the job.”

The Volkswagen Chattanooga plant employs roughly 4,300 people. In May, workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will also vote on whether to join the UAW, with the NLRB election being held from May 13 to 17.

The news comes after the UAW launched simultaneous, six-week strikes against Ford, General Motors (GM), and Dodge-Chrysler parent company Stellantis in September, garnering record pay increases from all three.

At the time, there was much speculation that the union could target Tesla, with Fain even saying the UAW hoped to bargain with the “Big Five or Six” in 2028, instead of just the “Big Three.” He also went on to call employees at Tesla and other non-unionized automakers “members of the future.”

In November, the UAW officially launched a union drive at 13 automakers with non-unionized U.S. facilities, including Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes, and several others.

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Volkswagen workers in Tennessee have voted to join the UAW
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