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Volkwagen Workers Vote to Unionize at Tennessee Plant As UAW Targets More Plants Across America

Key Takeaways

  • Historic win as Volkswagen workers in Tennessee vote to join UAW union.
  • There was strong voter turnout with 83.5% of eligible workers casting a vote.
  • The UAW now has its sights set on other nonunion auto plants across the US, including those owned by BMW, Honda, Toyota, and Tesla.

Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the Atlas Cross Sport and ID.4 are produced, voted to join the United Auto Workers union late on Friday night. The secret ballot was overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

This marks the first time an automotive plant in the south has voted to unionize since the 1940s. This is also the first foreign-owned automotive plant to unionize in the South.


A Strong Majority

It took three tries before the UAW was able to successfully unionize the plant. There was a failed vote in 2014 and 2019, but this time around, a majority of the workers said yes to the union. Not all those who were eligible to vote chose to participate, with 83.5 percent of those eligible casting a vote. A total of 73 percent (2,628 voters) said yes while 27 percent (985 voters) said no.

The UAW is pushing hard to unionize as many plants as possible after negotiating new contracts with the Big Three last year. This followed a six-week strike that ended with immediate raises of at least 11 percent and pay increases of over 30 percent through the contract period, which runs through April 2028. The UAW has allocated $40 million towards unionization efforts through 2026.

Volkswagen Chattanooga Plant Worker

UAW Targets the South

Next up on the list for the UAW is the Mercedes factory in Vance, Alabama. It has 5,000 workers with a vote scheduled to be completed on May 17. That’s just a small portion of the approximately 150,000 people working at nonunion auto plants in the US. It’s about the same number that are unionized at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis combined.

The UAW is targeting the American plants of BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo for its future unionization efforts. Three EV automakers – Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid – are also on the list. It hasn’t filed to hold a vote at any of those plants yet, except for Mercedes.

Volkswagen Chattanooga Plant Worker White Shirt

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