Workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted against union representation by the United Auto Workers. The highly anticipated 3-day secret-ballot election, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, resulted in a 712 to 626 loss for the UAW. This particular election was significant in that a result for representation would have given unions a strategic entry point into the Southern labor market, which has long been resistant to unionization efforts. Additionally, a result for representation would have allowed for the first ever implementation of a German “works council” model for a United States employer. Under German law, a “works council” is a group of elected white-collar and blue-collar council members, separate from a union, that meets with management to discuss a wide variety of working condition issues. This model at the Volkswagen plant may have permitted the experimentation of a more collaborative system between management and workforce, as compared to the fundamentally adversarial relationship between management and traditional labor unions.
The UAW has subsequently challenged the election results, primarily on the claim that a “coordinated effort” between politicians and anti-union groups coerced the workers into voting against representation. With the unusual scenario involving management taking a neutral position regarding unionization and third-parties committing the alleged coercive behavior, a new election is unlikely. Considering, however, the high-profile nature of this election and that the current Board has consistently been reconsidering established labor principles, a new election cannot be ruled out.