A group opposing the United Auto Workers' attempt to organize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga says the company may be planning to throw out the election results and recognize the union anyway.
The anti-union group, called the Center for Worker Freedom, said in an statement Monday that "Volkswagen is considering disregarding the election results" and accepting the union authorization cards collected from workers by the union last year. UAW officials originally said they have enough cards to be legally recognized, but that the company had pushed for the employee vote.
A challenge to the February vote, which saw 54 percent of workers vote against the union, was filed by the UAW with the National Labor Relations Board. A hearing on the challenge is set to begin on April 21. The union claims that outside influence from groups, such as the Center for Worker Freedom and Republican politicians, led to the defeat. It is asking the NLRB to grant a new vote, because of that interference.
But the CWF says that Volkswagen, which has at least passively supported the UAW's organizing efforts, might ask the NLRB to accept the UAW at the plant by virtue of the so-called card check process, by which a union can be recognized if it collects signed cards from a majority of the workers in favor of representation.
For card check to be approved, the company has to sign off on it, something that Volkswagen declined to do last year.
Volkswagen did not respond Monday to a request for comment about the Center for Worker Freedom's claims, and the UAW would not say whether that option was in the works.
"There are a lot of options and we are continuing to have discussions with VW to find the best solution for all involved," said Gary Casteel, director of UAW District 8 in Lebanon, Tenn. "There is no announcement about any agreement between us and VW. When they are prepared to make an announcement, they will."
But Matt Patterson, president of the Center for Worker Freedom, said he received word this past weekend that Volkswagen was considering agreeing to certification of the union by card check, although he declined to reveal his source.
"Ever since the election concluded I had heard this was a possibility," Patterson toldThe Tennessean. "I heard confirmation over this past weekend."
He said that the NLRB office in Atlanta, which is handling the UAW's challenge to the election, declined to say whether allowing the union to be certified through card check now would be legal.
"It deeply troubles me that the NLRB won't even say whether that's possible," Patterson said. "But we're looking at a situation where an election could be overturned by bureaucratic fiat, and as far as I know, that's never happened."
And he said the center believes that Volkswagen "only went along with the election in the first place because they thought the union had enough support to win."
"It's at least likely that they will try this," he said of the card check option. "A lot of people think they had an election and it's settled, or that maybe they will schedule a new election. But the situation is even more dire than that."