DETROIT — More than 1,000 workers at Volkswagen’s Tennessee factory have signed cards authorizing a vote on representation by the United Auto Workers, the first plant in the nation to reach that milestone in the UAW’s quest to organize more than a dozen nonunion factories.
The union says in a statement Thursday that the VW workers signed on in less than a week.
The factory in Chattanooga employs about 3,800 people who make the VW ID.4 electric vehicle and the Atlas family of gas-powered SUVs. It could become the first test of the union’s strategy to simultaneously try to organize the nonunion plants.
The UAW statement says workers have complained about mistreatment by management including mandatory overtime on Saturdays, and they are seeking higher pay. A message was left Thursday seeking comment from VW.
In November, VW gave workers an 11% pay raise at the plant. The raises came after UAW members ratified new contracts with Detroit automakers. The union says VW’s pay lags behind what workers make at UAW-represented auto plants.
The UAW pacts with General Motors, Ford and Jeep maker Stellantis include 25% pay raises by the time the contracts end in April of 2028. With cost-of-living increases, workers will see about 33% in raises for a top assembly wage of $42 per hour, plus annual profit sharing, the union said.
Less than two weeks after ratifying new contracts with Detroit automakers, the UAW announced plans to try to simultaneously organize workers at the nonunion plants, most owned by foreign-based automakers.
The UAW says the drive covers nearly 150,000 workers at factories largely in the South, where the union has had little success in recruiting new members.
The drive will target U.S. plants run by Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW and Volvo. Also on the union’s list are U.S. factories run by electric vehicle sales leader Tesla, as well as EV startups Rivian and Lucid.
The union says its strategy includes calling for an election at factories when about 70% of the workers sign up.