Glenn Spencer Glenn Spencer
Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


April 22, 2024


In a closely watched election, the United Auto Workers (UAW) succeeded in organizing Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The vote among more than 4,000 workers went the union’s way with 73% of the vote. The UAW hopes this win will act as a springboard to organizing more automakers in the South. 

However, there were some unique factors at play here. First, as the Chamber has noted, this was not the UAW’s first crack at the plant. The union had launched two previous organizing bids, so the factory was not exactly unknown territory. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the company decided to remain neutral in the campaign, meaning that the union’s story was the only story being heard by workers. In a political campaign, this would be the equivalent of only one candidate giving speeches, sending out mailers, and launching advertising. The UAW may not find such an easy road at other companies. 

Once the election is certified, the UAW and Volkswagen will sit down and bargain a first contract. Presumably, the union will push for a wage increase and a defined benefit pension plan, among other concessions. How much of that it will get remains to be seen, but it’s notable that even the Detroit Three refused to restore old-school pension plans during last year’s strike.   

For now, workers have made their decision, as is their right under the National Labor Relations Act. However, it’s unclear how many were aware of what happened the last time the UAW represented Volkswagen’s workers. In 1987, the company had to shut down its plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, for cost and competitive reasons. Roughly 2,500 UAW workers lost their jobs. The 4,000 workers in Chattanooga, as well as the community, will surely hope for a different result now.

About the authors

Glenn Spencer

Glenn Spencer

Spencer oversees the Chamber’s work on immigration, retirement security, traditional labor relations, human trafficking, wage hour and worker safety issues, EEOC matters, and state labor and employment law.

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