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VW’s German Union May Be Violating U.S. Labor Laws. Will Obama’s NLRB Do Anything About It?

UAW - Union Aint Wanted - VW

With Volkswagen employees delivering an anti-UAW petition to management last Friday, the big battle over the UAW’s do-or-die efforts to unionize VW’s employees in Chattanooga, Tennessee is heating up.

Although VW employees have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over the UAW’s deceptive card-signing tactics, it remains to be seen whether Barack Obama’s union appointees at the NLRB will address any union-related violations of VW employees’ rights.

Notwithstanding the fact that the NLRB is currently closed, it remains to be seen whether (when it reopens) Obama’s NLRB will do anything about the coercive statements made by VW’s German union officials who continue to issue ultimatums to VW’s Tennessee employees through the press.

Over the summer, a high-ranking official with the German union that sits on VW’s board of directors inferred that, if the Tennessee workers did not have (union) representation on VW’s works council, the plant may not get expanded.

On Monday, another high-ranking official of the German union made the same type of coercive statement:

Bernd Osterloh, head of VW’s global works council, said in a statement that forming a council was important if the plant wanted to produce other VW cars and that he would keep talking with the UAW. [Emphasis added.]

This statement alone could either be construed as a threat if employees wished to remain union-free, as well as a promise should employees choose to unionize.

In either case, if this type of statement was uttered by a member of management during a union organizing campaign, the statement would likely be construed as coercively interfering with employees’ rights and, as a result, an unfair labor practice.

In the case of VW, while both comments were made by German union officials, due to the unique management powers that the union has over the German company, union officials who can make good on either their threat or promise have arguably the same powers as management.

As was noted last month, under Germany’s co-determination system, Volkswagen’s union has a unique position that is unlike any here in the United States in that VW’s German union officials, who sit on the company’s board of directors, actually have the ability to direct investment and veto expansions–like the one on the table in Tennessee.

Because of this unique power afforded to the German union, when union officials state (in the press) that the expansion of the Tennessee plant rests on whether or not Chattanooga employees unionize (or have “representation” on the Works Council), under the National Labor Relations Act, it is arguably interfering and coercing employees in the exercise of their NLRA Section Seven Rights.

As a result, VW’s employees have the grounds to file an unfair labor practice charge using the press statements as evidence of the union’s statements.

According to the NLRB’s own guidebook on the National Labor Relations Act [page 16], the NLRB states:

    Examples of conduct the Board considers to interfere with employee free choice are:

  • Threats of loss of jobs or benefits by an employer or a union to influence the votes or union activities of employees.
  • A grant of benefits or promise to grant benefits to influence the votes or union activities of employees.

As VW’s union has the ability to affect whether or not the Chattanooga plant obtains more work, the statements made by German union officials clearly carry with them an enticement or a threat that is based on how employees choose to exercise their rights.

The only question now is: Will the VW employees understand this and file charges with the NLRB when the government shutdown ends?
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“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)

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