CHATTANOOGA -- When workers try to unionize, they often hear that their factory will lose business if they do. Here at Volkswagen AG's only U.S. assembly plant, they are hearing exactly the opposite.
Last week, a high-ranking labor leader who sits on VW's supervisory board told a German news agency that the board wouldn't authorize the addition of a second assembly line at the $1 billion Chattanooga plant or any new product until the plant joins the works council that represents all of VW's other assembly plants.
VW has long talked about bringing a large SUV to the plant, which has built the mid-sized Passat sedan since 2011.
"We will only agree to an expansion of the site or any other model contract when it is clear how to proceed with the employees' representatives in the United States," a report published Tuesday, June 18, by the news agency dba quoted the labor leader, Stephan Wolf, as saying.
The remarks raised the stakes of the politically sensitive organizing campaign already under way here and delivered a ready-to-serve talking point to the UAW, which is in talks with VW about how to make a German-style labor model work at the Chattanooga plant.
During an exclusive interview Wednesday with Automotive News, UAW President Bob King was quick to seize on Wolf's remarks to tout the benefits of organizing the Chattanooga plant, the only VW assembly plant absent from the works council.
"If I was a worker, if I was a member of the Chattanooga community, and I wanted to have the best chance of getting new investment and new product, I would want a voice on the world employee council," King said. "I would want somebody there representing the interests of Chattanooga. I wouldn't want a decision made where every other plant in the world has representation there, and I don't have somebody speaking up for me."