Steven M. Swirsky, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management and Health Care & Life Sciences practices, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in the Bloomberg BNA Daily Labor Report, in “Volkswagen Workers Make New Run at Unionizing Tenn. Plant,” by Chris Opfer. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee are taking another shot at trying to unionize.

The United Auto Workers today filed a petition for a plantwide union election at the Chattanooga factory. The move comes five years after employees narrowly voted down union representation in a fierce election battle that sparked political tensions. …

VW workers voted 712-626 against unionization at the Chattanooga plant in 2014. The company, whose workers in Europe have long been represented by labor organizations, agreed to remain neutral during that contest. It also agreed to support the creation of a German-style works council, which would have tackled issues not required to be collectively bargained had the workers voted to unionize. …

The 2014 election was closely watched because of the heated political debate it created, despite Volkswagen’s pledge not to oppose unionization.

Steven Swirsky, an attorney who previously represented Volkswagen, and Carsten Huebner, who was a staffer for a Volkswagen works council at the time, recently talked about the 2014 election during an event at New York University. They described it as a largely collaborative approach. Both sides eventually signed an agreement laying the groundwork for a “dual model,” including union representation and a separate works council delegated to handle certain issues often left to bargaining.

“I think the real achievement in this is that the dual model was something that both the company and UAW felt comfortable in having and wanted to be made public to the workforce in the plant before the election took place,” Swirsky said April 5. “It was not a pre-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. I would say in some ways it was like a framework agreement.”

But Swirsky and Huebner also cited the role that Tennessee government officials played in the outcome.

“One of the things that was in the fulcrum at the time was, is this plant going to expand and is it essentially going to double capacity and double employment,” Swirsky said. “When you have people from the state legislature who have to approve the bond packages and the tax incentives saying, ‘We won’t do it if the union wins the election,’ it was a big thumb on the scale.”

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