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Chattanooga Volkswagen Workers Announce Push to Join UAW

"People are standing up like never before," said one organizer. "They know that standing up to join the union is how you win fair treatment, fair pay, and a better life."

Workers at Volkswagen's only U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee announced Thursday that they're launching a public organizing committee with the goal of joining the United Auto Workers, which is aiming to expand its membership to include employees at more than a dozen nonunion car companies after winning historic contracts at the Big Three.

In less than a week, more than 1,000 workers at the Volkswagen plant signed union authorization cards, giving the nascent union drive more than 30% support so far at the Chattanooga location.

The UAW narrowly failed to organize the plant in 2014 and 2019. But leaders of the new unionization push expressed confidence that the outcome would be different this time around as the newly emboldened UAW puts special emphasis on the South, where the unionization rate is significantly lower than in the rest of the country.

"People are standing up like never before," said Steve Cochran, a lead organizer of the Chattanooga union drive. "There are a lot of young workers in the plant now and this generation wants respect. They're not okay with mistreatment by management. They see what's happening at Starbucks and Amazon. They know that standing up to join the union is how you win fair treatment, fair pay, and a better life."

Organizers pointed to the $184 billion in profits that Volkswagen Group has brought in over the past decade while workers' wages have stagnated or declined.

"In the last three years, we've seen VW make nearly a trillion dollars in revenue and $78 billion in profit, but we haven't seen our fair share in Chattanooga," reads the union campaign's website. "Now we're ready to fight for a better job, a better life, and a better future."

Josh Epperson, a member of the organizing committee who has worked at the Chattanooga plant for more than a decade, said the facility has high turnover because newer employees aren't given "the tools and support they need to thrive."

"With the union, we can improve working conditions," said Epperson. "If there's an issue in our work area, we'll have a way to address it. We'll find common ground so we can make it a good job and people will want to stay."

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