Notwithstanding the fact that the next boss of Germany’s largest union, IG Metall, just seemingly compared the U.S. South to North Korea, and after chasing companies out of the North and Midwest, unions have long had their sights set on getting their grip on the Southern States. It appears that the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee may be where they hope the fall of the South begins.
The United Auto Workers, Volkswagen and its union, IGMetall, are misleading the VW employees in Tennessee about U.S. labor law and it’s about time the employees there learned the truth:
Under U.S. labor law, workers have the right to represent themselves–individually or collectively–without having a union like the UAW.
Unions’ Misrepresentation About Representation
Over the last several months, misinformation has been put out in the press by a lot of people about U.S. labor law.
The common belief, as stated by (primarily) union advocates and echoed by Volkswagen is that the only way Volkswagen’s employees in Chattanooga can have representation on its Works Council is through a trade union.
It was stated again on Tuesday in the USAToday:
Labor representatives, who make up half of the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker’s supervisory board, have pressured VW management to enter discussions about union representation at the Chattanooga plant because U.S. law requires that any works council be created through an established union.
In Germany, wages are bargained through the union, while works councils negotiate plant-specific matters such as job security and working conditions for all employees.
“It’s important to note that the issue for us is works councils, not unions,” Osterloh* said. “And your law says if I want to transfer authority to a works council, I need to work with a union.” [Emphasis added.]
[*Bernd Osterloh is the head of the Volkswagen’s global works councils and a member of the company’s supervisory board.]
The problem with this statement is: It is not true.
Of course, the UAW won’t tell employees that it is not true because it is not in the union’s interests to have VW workers (or the company, apparently) to know that U.S. labor law does allow employees to have representation without a formal union–as long as management has not create and does not control that representative.
Representation Without Unionization
In these United States, most Americans who work in the private sector for companies with two or more employees fall under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act.
The cornerstone of the National Labor Relations Act is employees’ Section 7 Rights–which apply to union and, more importantly, non-unionized employee alike. The Section 7 Rights that employees have are as follows [with emphasis added]:
RIGHTS OF EMPLOYEES
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].
Here are some takeaways that VW’s workers (as well as VW management and its union in Germany) should get from the above paragraph:
- If you read the above paragraph carefully, you would realize that American workers–in this case, VW’s workers–have the right to “self-organization.” Which means they have the right to organize themselves to have representation on VW’s Works Council–without the UAW..
- VW’s workers have the right “to form” their own group of representatives to sit on VW’s Works Council–without the UAW.
- VW’s workers have the right “bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing–which does not have to be the UAW, but can be their own self-selected group of employees.
- VW’s workers “also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities.”
- If the work Councils want to act like unions and represent VW workers, then they need to come clean and say so. If this is the case, they need to abide by US labor laws which include right of employees to choose whether they want these Work Councils as their “exclusive bargaining representative” as defined by American law.
The key to all of these is that neither management, nor the union, can legally interfere or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights (or this guaranteed right under the law to choose for themselves).
What this means for VW’s workers who may want representation on VW’s Works Council is this:
You do not need the United Auto Workers to have representation on the Works Council. You can do it yourselves by forming your own committee, association, or even your own union (if you choose).
Even Obama’s National Labor Relations Board Affirms Workers’ Rights Without Union Representation
Over a year ago, when Obama’s appointees at the National Labor Relations Board began a campaign to educate workers about their rights without a union, I wrote that it would be the final nail in the unions’ coffin.
The reason is, if workers know they have as many rights without a union as they do with a union, they won’t need to pay unions as their “representatives.”
To help drive home the point that VW’s employees have right without the UAW, consider this from the National Labor Relations Board’s website:
Activity Outside a Union
Employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA. Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “concerted activity”, which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action.
To re-iterate, these rights exist without the UAW and it is the National Labor Relations Board that is sworn to protect these rights.
More importantly, if either Volkswagen through its management or its quasi-managerial union (with or without the UAW’s encouragement) were to discriminate or retaliate against VW employees for exercising their rights without the UAW, it would be a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
How To Go About Representation On VW’s Works Council Without The UAW
If VW employees want to have representation on VW’s Works Council without having to pay the UAW, here’s a step-by-step way how to do it lawfully*.
- * NOTE: Volkswagen management, its supervisors, or any other company agent cannot assist employees in this–in any way, shape or form. This means employees, should they wish to engage in these activities, should not do it on working time, nor should they use company-provided equipment like copy machines or meeting rooms to engage in these activities.
Here’s how to have a “union” without having a union like the UAW:
- As a number of employees have signed UAW authorization cards, the first step should be for each employee who signed a UAW card to formally revoke the UAW’s authorization for representation (see form below).
- Either a) each department can formally designate (or even elect) its own representative, or b) you can choose to have random selection. [Again, management cannot be involved in the selection (or election) of representatives.] It would be beneficial legally to rotate people on and off the “representative” group so that 1) more people can participate, and 2) the company cannot be accused by the UAW of having an “in house union” that is controlled by the company.
- If employees choose to have an election by secret ballot, they can either use the National Labor Relations Board to do so–or there are other groups (like the American Arbitration Association) that will conduct elections by secret ballot.
- Once department ‘representative groups’ are established, employees may want to set up a smaller, more formal structure as well as either a voluntary donation system or a “dues” system. Employees should bear in mind, that to travel to the Works Council in Germany will require money. It wouldn’t take nearly as much as the UAW would charge in union dues, but there should be some sort of account (with safeguards) to afford the committee the ability to travel to Germany.
- With regard to money, there should be both safeguards and transparency.
- Note:Once the above is established, there may be a requirement to file formal documentation with the Department of Labor. However, that is a question that either an attorney or the DOL can answer.
- Once the above is completed, a formal letter to Volkswagen establishing the ‘representative body’ for the Work Council should be sent.
Again, neither Volkswagen management, nor its union can be involved in the process but it should begin by revoking the UAW Authorization Card so the UAW cannot claim it had VW “first.” [See form below.]
Now, before you say “that sounds like a lot of work,” you should know that there are only about 60 major unions in the country and dozens of smaller independent unions, there are hundreds of employee groups, associations and independent unions set up without AFL-CIO or C2W-associated unions like the UAW.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:
In what has proved to be a modern-day David-and-Goliath tale, a group of local workers at the MeadWestvaco paper mill in Covington fought the United Steelworkers union (USW) for the right to represent their interests and won.
The process wasn’t easy. USW, a long-established, global organization with 1.2 million active and retired members, fought hard to retain its standing at the Covington plant. The newly formed Covington Paperworkers Union (CPU) Local 675 operates on voluntary union dues, and its officers, all full-time MeadWestvaco employees, have to man the union hall during their off hours.
In addition, go to the Department of Labor’s website [UnionReports.gov] and see for yourself how many non-affiliated (independent) groups there are that don’t have to see a portion of their dues money going to fund activities they disagree with.
Here are the pages to view:
Once on the page where it says Union Name By Abbreviation, click on the link and use the scroll down bar to see how many independent unions, groups, and associations there are.
Below is a sample letter to revoke a signed union authorization card. In this case, specifically for VW’s workers (see page two).
As stated at the top of this post, Volkswagen, its union, as well as the UAW are misleading VW employees in Chattanooga about their rights.
They do have the right to have representation on the VW Works Council without having to go through the UAW.
It should be their choice as to whether or how they go about doing it–not Volkswagen’s, its union’s and certainly not the UAW’s.
Footnote: This post is being provided for information purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice. Many of the topics outlined above are complicated and space does not provide for a detailed discussion of all the issues that should be considered. Even in Right-to-Work states like Tennessee, mistakes can result in forced unionization. Legal counsel can be a valuable resource when working to avoid this danger.
Moreover, this post has not been paid for, requested, or otherwise encouraged by any person, group, or other entity. In other words, unions, it’s a freebie. So, Go Find Yourself another victim.
“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)
Cross-posted on LaborUnionReport.com