Volkswagen has been ordered by the National Labor Relations Board to begin bargaining with skilled-trades workers represented by the UAW at its Chattanooga plant.
The NLRB said in a unanimous Aug. 26 order -- released Wednesday -- that VW must bargain with UAW Local 42 as the “exclusive collective-bargaining representative” of skilled-trades workers at the factory.
Skilled-trades workers voted 104-48 in December to join the UAW, a rare victory for the union in the South.
The board said Volkswagen’s refusal to bargain with the UAW is “unlawful.” The NLRB ordered the automaker to bargain with the union “on request” and said VW is barred from “interfering with” workers’ bargaining rights.
Volkswagen said in a statement Thursday that it filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and said it is “disappointed that the NLRB declined to fully evaluate” the Chattanooga matter.
The order comes after the NLRB in April issued a complaint against VW for refusing to bargain with skilled-trades workers. Volkswagen has said it would take its case against bargaining to the U.S. Appeals Court after it exhausted its options with the NLRB.
UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel, who has spearheaded the union’s organizing push in Chattanooga, praised the ruling.
“Volkswagen’s illegal behavior is contrary to the company’s principles of social responsibility,” Casteel said. “Looking ahead, as Volkswagen slowly emerges from the global emissions scandal, the company also has an opportunity to improve employee relations in the U.S. We urge Volkswagen to accept the NLRB order and bargain with the local union at the earliest possible date.”
In a statement, VW said it will only bargain with the UAW when it represents all 1,400 workers at the factory. About 53 percent of the plant’s workforce voted against union representation in 2014, following weeks of campaigning by the UAW and by conservative activist groups and politicians.
“As always, Volkswagen respects the right of all of our employees to decide the question of union representation,” VW said. “This is why we disagree with the decision to separate Volkswagen maintenance and production workers and will continue our effort to allow everyone to vote as one group on the matter of union representation.”
The UAW was joined on Thursday by the head of Germany’s powerful IG Metall union, Joerg Hofmann, in demanding the automaker bargain with skilled-trades workers.
“IG Metall-chief Hoffman is calling for VW to no longer act contrary to American labor law, and seek talks with UAW without delay,” IG Metall said in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.