The unusual NLRB ruling on Monday gave anti-UAW groups, including
the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Southern
Momentum, which back workers defending the election, more leverage
in the fight over unionizing the plant.
The ruling means that if the NLRB holds a hearing on the dispute,
the anti-UAW workers will be able to take part and state their case,
along with the UAW.
No hearing has been scheduled, though labor lawyers have said there
likely will be one, given VW's size and the high-profile nature of
the UAW challenge.
Moreover, the ruling gives the anti-UAW workers and their allies the
right to appeal any decision made by the NLRB's Atlanta office to
the full five-member board of the NLRB in Washington, D.C.
After years of declining membership, the UAW is trying to expand
into the American South among non-union, foreign-owned auto plants.
This effort last month collided with opposition from senior
Tennessee Republicans and others.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Governor Bill Haslam, as well as
business-backed groups from Washington, including one headed by
small-government crusader Grover Norquist, actively campaigned
against the UAW in Chattanooga.
The UAW lost its effort to organize the VW plant there when workers
voted 712-626 not to join the union. It then asked the NLRB to set
aside the results of the election, arguing that the politicians and
outside groups compromised the process.
The Chattanooga dispute is uncharted territory in several ways. VW
remained technically neutral during the UAW campaign, but the German
company gave the union access to its facilities during the days
leading up to the election. Employers often oppose union campaigns,
but VW did not and also said it would not defend the election
results before the board.
DECISION "MONTHS OFF"
Former NLRB General Counsel Fred Feinstein predicted in an interview
on Monday that the Atlanta regional office's determination in the
case "is a couple of months off. And it could take a lot longer than
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Feinstein serves on the UAW's external review board, which handles
internal grievances and reviews the decisions made by union leaders.
The NLRB's decision to allow the anti-UAW workers to intervene in
the union's election challenge means that they are now parties to
the case. Employers and unions are typically the only parties to an
election challenge. So, it is "pretty unusual" for outside groups or
workers to seek — much less attain — that status, Feinstein said.
"It is different than being granted the ability to submit what are
essentially amicus briefs, or opinions on the law and opinions about
what happened," Feinstein said.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, based in the
Washington area, said in a statement that it was "very pleased" with
the NLRB decision.
A UAW representative declined to comment on the decision or on
whether the union will ask the NLRB's board to review it.
In the NLRB regional office's inquiry, both sides can submit
evidence. A hearing is common, but not mandated, lawyers said.
"The sole remedy here is ordering a new election," Feinstein said.
Feinstein predicted it could be weeks before a hearing, which could
last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker and Kevin
Drawbaugh in Washington)
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