The conflict between Volkswagen and the UAW over collective bargaining will soon go before the United States Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit.
This week, the National Labor Relations Board decided unanimously that Volkswagen must work with UAW Local 42 to negotiate wages and other conditions of employment for the bargaining unit, which is made up only of maintenance workers.
But Volkswagen has long held an all-or-nothing position on bargaining with the UAW. Company leaders want the union to represent all the employees—not just the group of about 150 maintenance workers.
"As always, Volkswagen respects the right of all of our employees to decide the question of union representation," according to a statement from the company. "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."
Volkswagen leaders said they are disappointed that the NLRB didn't fully evaluate their argument that everyone should be represented.
After initially saying the UAW was pleased with the NLRB's decision, which made clear that "the company has been operating in violation of federal law by refusing to come to the bargaining table," UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel said union leaders are disappointed in Volkswagen.
"We’re disappointed that Volkswagen is continuing to thumb its nose at the federal government," Casteel said in a prepared statement. "Volkswagen’s ill-advised appeal is nothing more than a stall tactic to try to delay the inevitable. It’s overdue time for the company to meet the local union at the bargaining table."
Dan Gilmore, a local attorney who has expertise in labor law and teaches labor relations/negotiations for UTC's College of Business, wasn't surprised that Volkswagen is holding firm to its position or that the company filed an appeal of the board decision.
He said VW leaders likely hope that the court will look into their argument that the bargaining unit should include all the company's employees.
"I know that VW certainly hopes the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will actually address the issue of whether the certified unit is indeed appropriate," he said via email.
He also explained why the appeal is in the D.C. Circuit.
Employers always have the option to appeal an NLRB decision with the D.C. Circuit or with any circuit in which the company has sufficient business operations, he said.
For Volkswagen, those would be the 6th Circuit based upon its Chattanooga operations or the 4th Circuit based upon its Herndon, Virginia, headquarters.
"Some perceive the D.C. Circuit as being more business-friendly, which is what VW needs if it’s going to prevail on appeal," he also said.