Apr 19, 2024 - Economy

Votes due in Chattanooga

A lawn sign saying "We stand with the UAW"

A UAW lawn sign near the Volkswagen automobile assembly plant in Chattanooga in March. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Union insiders and outside observers predict the United Auto Workers will secure a historic victory tonight at the sprawling Volkswagen plant here.

Why it matters: Volkswagen Chattanooga workers are finishing three days of voting on whether to become the only non-Detroit Three automotive assembly plant in the U.S. to be unionized.

The big picture: The UAW lost two previous votes to organize the factory in 2014 and 2019, but it appears to be on the precipice of a win on its third attempt.

  • "This time does feel different on many dimensions," Harvard Law School professor and Center for Labor executive director Sharon Block tells Axios. "The campaign has been very different, the leadership of the UAW has been very different and the pushback has seemingly been very different."

State of play: The Chattanooga vote is wrapping up, with UAW advisers Chris Brooks and Ben Dictor predicting a win.

  • Of the 5,500 workers at the plant — which makes the ID.4 EV, the VW Atlas and the Atlas Cross Sport — about 4,300 are eligible to cast ballots.

Behind the scenes: One worker at a VW Chattanooga employee parking lot Friday, who gave his name as Marcus, estimated that about 60% of employees favor joining the UAW.

  • "A lot of people want it. A lot of people [are] scared of it. I'm like in the middle," he told Axios Friday during a shift change. "You've always got to do your research."

Volkswagen officials have stayed relatively quiet during the campaign, saying that they support the workers' right to vote.

What to watch: The National Labor Relations Board will tabulate ballots after voting ends at 8pm, with results expected later tonight.

  • If the union wins and neither side challenges the results within five business days, the results will be certified and the two sides can begin bargaining for a contract.

The bottom line: The UAW needs a simple majority of those who vote to prevail.

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This story was an excerpt from Axios Closer, a recap on the day's biggest business stories.

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