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Standup 2.0 KICKING OFF WITH A BANG: 1000+ Cards Signed At VW Chattanooga


Chattanooga Volkswagen Workers Announce Push to Join UAW

By Jake Johnson - Common Dreams, December 7, 2023

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.

Inspired by Strike Wins, 1,000 Volkswagen Workers Sign Union Cards

By Luis Feliz Leon - Labor Notes, December 7, 2023

Today workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee, assembly plant announced their third bid to unionize plant-wide with the Auto Workers (UAW).

Riding the momentum of its strike of the Big 3 automakers, the UAW now wants to double its numbers in the auto industry by adding 150,000 workers at companies that have long avoided unionization. Thirteen non-union automakers are on notice: Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Mazda, Mercedes, Volvo, BMW, Volkswagen, and electric vehicle producers Rivian, Tesla, and Lucid.

The union says it has been inundated with calls and online sign-ups by workers at these firms. The Volkswagen drive is the first to go public, after 1,000 workers signed union cards.

The UAW’s two previous attempts to organize the full Chattanooga plant fell short narrowly. In 2014, workers lost by 86 votes. In 2019, the union came even closer, losing by just 57 votes with 93 percent turnout. There were 1,700 workers at the plant then. Some 3,800 workers today build the Atlas and Cross Sport SUVs, as well as the electric ID.4.

In 2015 a smaller group of skilled trades workers won their election by a vote of 108 to 44, joining UAW Local 42, which had formed as a minority union following the 2014 loss. But the company refused to negotiate with the smaller unit, delaying in the courts. The UAW quietly jettisoned the effort, filing instead for the full unit in 2019.

After the 2019 defeat, workers kept the flame of organizing alive, meeting regularly and running a petition for the right to use their paid time off outside the company's annual weeklong maintenance shutdown.

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Labor unions are still giving Democrats climate headaches

By Alex Nieves - Politico, December 4, 2023

One of California’s most powerful unions is not loosening its grip on oil jobs.

Despite the Biden administration and California lawmakers pouring billions of dollars into new climate-friendly industries like electric vehicles, hydrogen and building electrification, a key player in state politics is still defending fossil fuel interests that provide thousands of well-paying jobs.

President Joe Biden’s investment in clean energy sectors through a pair of massive spending bills — which promise lucrative tax credits for projects that pay union wages — was supposed to speed up the labor transition away from oil and gas. That hasn’t happened in deep-blue California, home to the country’s most ambitious climate policies — and most influential labor unions.

“We believe we’re still going to be working in the oil and gas space for the foreseeable future,” said Chris Hannan, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, which represents nearly 500,000 members across dozens of local unions, from pipefitting to electrical work.

Unions’ longstanding — and well-founded — distrust of the renewable energy industry as a reliable source of labor-friendly jobs is slowing the “just transition” that Biden, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders around the country have pushed.

With federal officials trying to get clean energy funding out as fast as possible ahead of the 2024 election, and California politicians cracking down on the fossil fuel industry, unions’ reluctance to relinquish fossil fuel jobs undermines Democrats’ aggressive climate targets, according to a lawmaker who serves both a union- and oil-rich area of the state.

While the union embrace of fossil fuels is unique to California — one of the few blue states with significant oil production — the struggle highlights a larger question over how states can quickly build massive amounts of clean energy infrastructure without undercutting labor.

UAW Calls for Cease-Fire in Gaza

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, December 1, 2023

The United Auto Workers international, which represents 400,000 workers and 580,000 retirees, called on December 1 for a cease-fire in Israel and Palestine. UAW President Sean Fain posted:

I am proud that the UAW International Union is calling for a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine. From opposing fascism in WWII to mobilizing against apartheid South Africa and the CONTRA war, the UAW has consistently stood for justice across the globe.

At a press conference outside the White House where protesters had been on hunger strike, Brandon Mancilla, UAW director, said, “A labor movement that fights for social and economic justice for all workers must always stand against war and for peace.” He also announced,

Our international executive board will also be forming a divestment and just transition working group to study the history of Israel and Palestine, our union’s economic ties to the conflict, and explore how we can have a just transition for US workers from war to peace.

The American Postal Workers Union, UE union, the California Nurses Association, the Chicago Teachers Union and several other local unions and worker groups have issued public calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. You can view a roundup of unions calling for a ceasefire here.


Auto Workers Win Key Parts of a Just Transition

By Sydney Ghazarian - Labor Network for Sustainability, December 1, 2023

Through bold strategy and collective action, United Auto Workers (UAW) have won historic gains in their 2023 contracts with the Big 3 Auto companies– gains that turned the tide against an unjust transition to electric vehicles and demonstrated that climate progress and economic justice can and must be won in tandem.

UAW’s ratified contracts with the Big 3 include:

  • Provisions for expanding unionized EV work. The agreement with General Motors includes a commitment to future battery plants being included in the national agreement with UAW – meaning they will be good union jobs. Other contracts include guarantees for lower barriers to unionization at specific battery plants and commitments to the expansion of EV production already being done by unionized workers at existing plants.
  • A 25% wage increase, including an 11% bump in the first year plus restoration of cost-of-living adjustments.
  • An end to wage tiers that kept some employees at lower pay than others — a historic and important win for ensuring that EV work is both high-paying and union.
  • An end to permanent ‘temporary’ employee status, with temps converting to full employment status after 9 months of work. This win will result in thousands of temporary employees who have spent years working at the company being able to reap the pay and benefits of employment status as soon as the contract is ratified.
  • The right to strike over plant closures at all three automakers, which will provide the UAW critical leverage against the Big Three shipping jobs to anti-union states and overseas.
  • Reopening the Belvidere Assembly Plant to manufacture EV batteries and serve as a parts depot — one of the only Big Three plants ever reopened after a closure
  • The Stellantis agreement includes a moratorium on outsourcing, as well as product and investment commitments, giving workers significant leverage over corporate decision-making.
  • Many critical provisions that provide protection for employees during transitions, such as allowing some employees to maintain their seniority from closed or idled plants, transfer rights, and increased moving allowance
  • Many significant investments in providing a safety net for workers during a transition, such as increased investment in retirement, tuition assistance, and a year of healthcare coverage following indefinite layoffs.
  • The contract will expire on April 30, 2028 so that workers can strike on May 1st- International Workers Day. President Fain has called on other unions to align their contract expiration dates, as to maximize their collective power.

The UAW Solidarity Committee– which consists of climate and social movement organizations and is coordinated by the Labor Network for Sustainability– created a brief on the UAW strike outcomes to share with movement partners. You can read more here.


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