VW Chattanooga Plant Workers Push for Unionization Amid Surging Vehicle Prices

VW Chattanooga Plant Workers Push for Unionization Amid Surging Vehicle Prices

Despite the company's profitability and a 37% increase in vehicle prices over three years, wages for workers at the Chattanooga plant have not kept pace.

More than 1,000 Volkswagen workers---more than 30% of the workforce---at the automaker's only U.S. plant in Chattanooga, TN, have launched a union drive, rallying for fair treatment and better pay in response to rising vehicle prices and stagnant wages.

This development marks a critical phase in the United Auto Workers' (UAW) national campaign to unionize all non-union autoworkers at 13 companies.

"People are standing up like never before," said Steve Cochran, a skilled team member and a leader of the unionization effort at Volkswagen.

This union drive comes against the backdrop of Volkswagen Group's substantial financial success, with profits totaling $184 billion over the past decade. Despite the company's profitability and a 37% increase in vehicle prices over three years, wages for workers at the Chattanooga plant have not kept pace. These workers are responsible for assembling popular models such as the VW Atlas, Atlas Sport and the electric ID.4. The push for unionization is not just about wages; it's also about job quality and safety. 

Vicky Holloway, a production team member in body shop quality, expressed concerns over the company's hiring practices. "I want to know we're doing the job right," she said, pointing out the need for experienced individuals in critical roles. Safety, she said, should be the foremost priority, a sentiment echoed by her colleagues.

Billy Quigg, a production team member in assembly, voiced dissatisfaction with the current working conditions, particularly the forced overtime and limited time off. 

"The forced overtime on Saturdays, the lack of time off, it keeps us away from our families," Quigg said. He believes a successful unionization will lead to better job conditions and, in turn, benefit the broader community.

The Chattanooga plant has faced issues with high turnover, as noted by Josh Epperson, an equipment operator in assembly. "Most [new workers] are gone in a few months," he said, citing inadequate tools and support for new employees. Unionization, in his view, is the solution to improving working conditions and employee retention.

The movement at the Chattanooga plant is part of a broader trend among non-union autoworkers nationwide, spurred by recent successes in the UAW's Stand Up Strike at the Big Three---Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. While non-union automakers have made some improvements to pay packages, they still fall short of the standards set by unionized automakers.

Drew Hall, a production team member in paint, shared a personal perspective on the benefits of unionization. Coming from a union family, he witnessed firsthand how union support provided his father, a former Ford employee, with a full pension and health care benefits after an early retirement due to disability.

As this movement gains momentum, thousands of non-union autoworkers across the country are joining the cause, signing union cards at UAW.org/join. The UAW has also released informational videos on workers' legal rights and the record auto industry profits, further encouraging workers to demand a fairer deal.

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