VW Labor Leader to Fight for Employee Group at Tennessee Factory

Feb 19, 2014 10:44 am ET

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen AG’s top labor leader said he’ll continue to fight for a German-style works council at the automaker’s plant in Tennessee after a majority of employees voted against joining the United Auto Workers union.

“Outside conservatives created a massively anti-union sentiment,” Bernd Osterloh, a VW supervisory board member and head of the automaker’s works council, said in a statement. “It’s possible that one would come to the conclusion that this influence represents an ‘unfair labor practice.’”

Osterloh said he’s studying how to still create an employee group at the factory and working with the UAW to confer with U.S. labor law experts on how best to proceed. VW workers, who hold half the seats on the carmaker’s supervisory board, would be reluctant to approve further plants in the U.S. South without an agreement ahead of time on employee representation, he said.

The world’s second-largest carmaker has also said that it will also still try to organize a works council at the site in Chattanooga, where 53 percent of workers rejected UAW membership in balloting that ended Feb. 14. The employee groups, which are common throughout VW’s home country of Germany, deal with workplace issues, such as scheduling and safety, and represent staff in disputes with management.

Osterloh’s comments were first published in an interview in the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

--Editor: Chris Reiter