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Union vote underway at Volkswagen’s only US plant

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Workers at Volkswagen’s lone U.S. factory are voting this week on whether to join the United Auto Workers in what is the union’s third attempt at organizing the plant.

Voting began Wednesday for the 4,100 hourly employees at Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and will extend through Friday.

A Volkswagen automobile assembly plant March 20, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The 4,100 hourly workers at the plant are voting this week on whether to unionize with the UAW. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images / Getty Images)

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VWAGY VOLKSWAGEN AG 15 +0.00 +0.00%

This is the third time in 10 years the UAW has sought to represent VW Chattanooga workers, and winning a vote to organize the VW plant would be a significant milestone for the union. 

The UAW has tried and failed for years to organize nonunion U.S. auto factories, most of them built by Asian and European automakers in southern states. But after a successful simultaneous strike at Detroit’s Big Three automakers last year, the UAW is feeling momentum to expand.

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UAW President Shawn Fain vowed the union would “pull out all the stops” to organize workers at non-union automakers like Volkswagen, Tesla, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and others after securing record-setting contracts for UAW workers at Ford, GM and Stellantis.

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F FORD MOTOR CO. 12.03 -0.06 -0.50%
GM GENERAL MOTORS CO. 42.46 -0.19 -0.45%
STLA STELLANTIS NV 25.78 -0.01 -0.05%
UAW President Shawn Fain speaks at a rallly

UAW members attend a rally in support of the labor union strike at the UAW Local 551 hall on the South Side Oct. 7, 2023, in Chicago. (Jim Vondruska/Getty Images / Getty Images)

In 2019, VW workers at the plant rejected union representation by an 833-776 vote. The Chattanooga plant is Volkswagen’s only non-union plant globally.

“We respect our workers’ right to a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests,” Volkswagen told FOX Business in a statement following the announcement of the latest vote. “We will fully support an NLRB vote, so every team member has a chance to vote in privacy in this important decision.”

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Volkswagen said in November it would raise the pay of its factory workers in Tennessee by 11%, joining several other foreign automakers that announced significant pay and compensation improvements following the UAW’s contract with the Big Three automakers.

Volkswagen Logo American Flag Reflection

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory is its only non-union plant globally. (Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The day before voting began at VW’s Chattanooga plant, the Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas issued a joint statement in opposition to the UAW’s unionization push into the South.

“Unionization would certainly put our states’ jobs in jeopardy. In fact, in this year already, all of the UAW automakers have announced layoffs,” the governors’ statement says.

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“In America, we respect our workforce, and we do not need to pay a third party to tell us who can pick up a box or flip a switch. No one wants to hear this, but it’s the ugly reality,” the statement continued. “We’ve seen it play out this way every single time a foreign automaker plant has been unionized; not one of those plants remains in operation.”

FOX Business’ Eric Revell and Reuters contributed to this report.

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