Following the United Automotive Workers’ (UAW) announcement of drives at several automakers with U.S. factories, a majority of workers at a key Volkswagen plant in Tennessee have signed up to join the union.
The UAW says it has secured over 50 percent of workers at Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to a report on Tuesday from Bloomberg. The news comes after the UAW launched a union drive at Volkswagen, Tesla, Toyota and others in November, following a successful six-week strike against Ford, General Motors (GM) and Dodge-Chrysler owner Stellantis.
Zach Costello, a Volkswagen employee of six years who leads the UAW organizing committee at the Chattanooga facility, has highlighted the historic strikes as a key precursor to the current union drive.
“Momentum’s picked up in a big way,” Costello said. “[The strike against the Big Three] was massively influential in waking people up [at the Tennessee plant]. It really turned a lot of people to our side.”
U.S. laws say that companies can voluntarily recognize and negotiate with a union once a majority of its workers sign union cards. The company can also refuse to recognize a union until the organization first wins an election at the company.
According to the UAW, the union will seek recognition at facilities upon receiving 70 percent or more of the site’s workers.
All workers should have a voice, and the success at VW is showing workers across the country what is possible.
— UAW (@UAW) February 6, 2024
“We respect our workers’ right to decide the question of union representation,” wrote Volkswagen in December. The automaker also said it runs a “world-class production environment” in Chattanooga, and it strongly supports “frequent, transparent, and two-way dialogue.”
According to Volkswagen’s website the Chattanooga plant employs roughly 5,500 workers who make an average of $60,000 a year or more. The facility currently produces the Volkswagen ID.4 electric vehicle (EV), the Volkswagen Atlas and the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport.
The strikes last fall successfully led Ford, GM and Stellantis to enter contracts increasing worker pay by over a third in some cases, and the UAW quickly followed up noting plans to organize other automakers with U.S. facilities. In a statement while the strikes were still going on, UAW President Shawn Fain alluded to future plans to organize Tesla and others, saying that when the current contracts expired, the union hoped to be bargaining with the “Big Five or Six” instead of just the Big Three.
“I was told I was crazy for what we were asking for,” Fain said in a statement last month. “I know people say it’s crazy going after all these companies — I don’t think it is. I think workers are ready. I think now is the time.”