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Volkswagen union vote leads effort to test UAW's power

UAW has tried before to unionize plants unsuccessfully, but the latest push could potentially make significant changes in the U.S. auto industry.
Volkswagen union vote leads effort to test UAW's power
Posted at 3:48 PM, Apr 17, 2024

Thousands of autoworkers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen plant began voting to unionize this week in a test to see if the most recent winning streak of the United Automobile Workers union might continue, spelling possible big changes ahead for the industry in the United States. 

In March workers at the Tennessee plant requested to vote in a first test of the UAW's power to organize there, and in other automobile plants across the country. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Lee joined five other southern governors trying to convince workers that voting to unionize would put their jobs at risk. Around 4,300 workers at the Tennessee VW plant started voting the next day, with results expected to be counted by the National Labor Relations Board on Friday night. 

Forty-eight-year-old Kelcey Smith, who has been at the Chattanooga VW plant for a year, told the New York Times, "The energy is high. I think we are going to nail it."

In February, UAW announced a $40 million "commitment to organizing auto and battery workers" that would span two years of campaigning. UAW's international executive board voted to commit the significant funding to help organize the many new workers anticipated at battery and auto plants.

More than a dozen nonunion auto plants have been eyed by UAW including plants operated by Hyundai, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Kia, Toyota and Honda. 

SEE MORE: President Biden heads to Pittsburgh, calls for higher steel tariffs

Reuters reported that it would be the third time 4,300 employees at the Chattanooga VW plant have been under unionize efforts guided by UAW and committees. The plant assembles VW's ID.4 electric SUV. 

The latest UAW efforts are seen as a push to gain more public support for unions and have more plants outside of the Detroit-owned automakers unionize. The UAW is also working under the support of the Biden administration after President Joe Biden walked with United Auto Workers last year in a picket line calling for higher pay. 

President Biden told the workers on the 12th day of their strike, "You deserve what you earned and you earned a hell of a lot more than what you're getting paid now."

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