WASHINGTON (PAI) -- Legal schemes, hatched by the anti-worker right wing, may enmesh and delay the United Auto Workers' case for demanding a rerun union authorization election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Aided, abetted and sponsored by the so-called National Right to Work Committee and its legal foundation, a handful of allegedly anti-union workers at the 1,500-person plant are suing VW in federal court in Memphis. They argue VW illegally gave UAW "a thing of value" - access to the plant - before the February vote.
That same handful of workers, again performing as the radical right group's puppets, convinced the National Labor Relations Board's Atlanta regional office to let them intervene and argue against UAW's demand for the rerun vote. The right-to-work crowd argues that VW, formally the defendant, agrees with UAW and won't fight.
All the legal maneuvering could delay the case for months. The union has already said it would appeal the intervention decision to the full 5-member board in D.C.
The tangle over UAW's 712-626 loss on Valentine's Day at Chattanooga is important to workers nationwide. That's because unlike normal cases, this union recognition election saw massive anti-union intervention by outside-funded right wing groups - the right-to-work crowd and Americans for Tax Reform - and threats from Tennessee's ruling Republicans.
The pols said if Chattanooga workers voted for UAW, the plant would not get an SUV assembly line and would lose state tax credits and other assistance, thus threatening jobs. The politicians' interference, just before and during the voting, led UAW to cite NLRB precedents and demand the rerun.
Now UAW is criticizing the right-to-work crowd, too. UAW President Bob King called the Memphis lawsuit "baseless." He noted UAW turned in election authorization cards from a majority of VW workers when it filed for the original vote, and negotiated an election agreement with VW, setting ground rules for the campaign and the balloting. That agreement is legal and would stay in place in a rerun, he said.
But UAW isn't exactly happy with the NLRB's Atlanta regional office for letting the right-to-work crowd and its anti-union Chattanooga workers intervene in the case there.
"It is an outrage that the Atlanta region, deviating from the board's own practice, is allowing groups with shadowy funding that masquerade as legitimate worker representatives to participate in the process to determine whether the UAW election at Volkswagen was tainted by state and federal politicians' threats of retaliation against workers if they exercised their right to choose UAW," the union said.
"Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant. It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats...will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing. They mocked the NLRB process and denigrated workers who demand the federal government enforce their right to have an election free from outside interference."
UAW said the right-to-work crowd and GOP kingpin Grover Norquist's so-called Americans for Tax Reform funded the allegedly independent outside groups. During the run-up to the original election, those two groups and a front organization, Southern Momentum, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars against UAW.
They blanketed Chattanooga with billboards and radio ads, alleging the UAW would take away workers' guns and calling the union the "United Obama Workers." Guns are popular, and the president isn't, in Chattanooga.
"Of Southern Momentum, its money speaks louder than its words, but it does not speak for Volkswagen Chattanooga workers.
Photo: Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Erik Schelzig/AP