Less than a week after a majority of Volkswagen’s employees in Chattanooga rejected representation by the United Auto Workers, VW’s German union IG Metall is back to threatening Chattanooga with job loss if they are not unionized.
Last year, after similar statements were made, German union bosses, as well as Volkswagen management emphatically denied that the election results would have any bearing on the company’s expansion plans.
However, this only came after VW employees filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
The assurances that the election results would not affect the Company’s decision where to expand was even re-emphasized during last week’s election:
“There is no connection between our Chattanooga employees’ decision about whether to be represented by a union and the decision about where to build a new product for the U.S. market,” Frank Fischer said.
Yet, a mere five days after the UAW lost the Chattanooga vote, Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council is back to threatening employees’ based on how they voted (or may vote in the future if there is a re-run election).
Volkswagen’s top labor representative threatened on Wednesday to try to block further investments by the German carmaker in the southern United States if its workers there are not unionized.
“I can imagine fairly well that another VW factory in the United States, provided that one more should still be set up there, does not necessarily have to be assigned to the south again,” said Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s works council.
“If co-determination isn’t guaranteed in the first place, we as workers will hardly be able to vote in favor” of potentially building another plant in the U.S. south, Osterloh, who is also on VW’s supervisory board, said.
The 20-member panel – evenly split between labor and management – has to approve any decision on closing plants or building new ones. [Emphasis added.]
In the United States, private-sector employees have the right to “self-organization,” to “form” or to “join” unions. As importantly, they also have the “right to refrain” from doing so.
These are rights that have been enshrined in Section Seven of the National Labor Relations Act since 1935, which states:
Sec. 7. [§ 157.] Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title]. [Emphasis added.]
While it appears that Mr. Osterloh is either naive about U.S. labor law, or is purposefully and arrogantly ignoring it, for the German union boss to issue such an ultimatum once again can and should be construed as either retaliation for employees exercising their rights under federal law by rejecting the UAW, or threatening them in the event that there may be another election in the future.
In either case, it is wrong and, since the German union has the ability to cause economic harm to U.S. workers, it is also very likely illegal.