By Kathleen Kapusta, J.D.
Volkswagen must recognize and bargain with a UAW local union at the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant, a three-member panel of the NLRB ordered in a summary judgment ruling. By failing and refusing since December 2015 to recognize and bargain with the union as the exclusive bargaining representative of its employees in the appropriate unit, Volkswagen has engaged in unfair labor practices in violation of the NLRA, the Board stated, ordering it to cease and desist and bargain on request with the union (Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
, August 26, 2016).
In the latest development in this long-running labor saga, the General Counsel issued a complaint alleging that Volkswagen violated NLRA Section 8(a)(5) and (1) by failing and refusing to recognize and bargain with the UAW local following its certification. The automaker admitted its refusal to bargain, but contested the validity of the union’s certification based on its contention, raised and rejected in the underlying representation proceeding, that the petitioned-for maintenance unit was not an appropriate unit because it did not include Volkswagen’s production employees.
In April, a divided NLRB denied Volkswagen’s request for review of a regional director’s decision directing a union election among a "micro"-unit of maintenance workers. Volkswagen had asked the Board to reverse the decision approving a UAW election within a discrete 160-employee group, after the union’s earlier bid to organize the entire 1,400 worker plant had failed. UAW Local 42 won a December 2015 election among the smaller unit, with over 70 percent of the maintenance workers voting in favor of the union. But Volkswagen refused to bargain, contending the bargaining unit was inappropriate.
A 2-1 majority concluded that Volkswagen raised no substantial issues that warranted Board review, and upheld the decision and direction of election. Agreeing with the regional director, the majority found the petitioned-for unit satisfied Specialty Healthcare
criteria (the 2011 decision that departed from Board precedent to sanction union elections among small "micro"-units within a company). Moreover, Volkswagen failed to show that the plant’s production workers, who it wanted to have included in the bargaining unit, shared an overwhelming community of interest with the maintenance workers.
In granting the General Counsel’s motion for summary judgment here, the Board found that all representation issues raised by Volkswagen were or could have been litigated in the prior representation proceeding. Further, said the Board, Volkswagen did not offer any newly discovered evidence nor allege any special circumstances that would require it to reexamine the representation proceeding decision.
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