73% Win Puts Volkswagen Workers in Strong Bargaining Positioning 

UAW members celebrate their victory at Volkswagen on Friday night (UAW)

CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE – “I’ve been through three of them. So it was just a different field for this time,” says 12-year Volkswagen worker Dontun Rutledge, standing drinking a bottle of whiskey outside of UAW’s victory party in Chattanooga last night. 

In his 12 years working at the plant, the UAW had tried and failed at Volkswagen in 2014 and again in 2019. Yesterday, the union won an astounding victory, with 73% of workers voting for the union, a sign of unity among the workforce. 

“Even with some of the older cats, there was in there, and they were the older guys, one day was in there, that were ant-union. They now is on board,” says Rutledge.

“We are unified. You know, we know we’re not playing,” says Volkswagen employee Reggie Cole. 

As a German company, Volkswagen has repeatedly claimed that it would be neutral and bargain if it won. Prior to yesterday’s victory, the plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the only Volkswagen plant in the world without a union. 

It’s unclear if Volkswagen will stay true to its pledge and negotiate a union contract in good faith. However, the 73% vote in favor of the union shows that Volkswagen’s union is united and could present a credible strike threat. 

“We are sending a strong message to our management team. Yes, we are real, you do have to recognize us,” said Volkswagen worker Vince Vaughn, speaking at the victory party. “We wanna sit down at the table and we wanna, as a team, because we are a union:” 

(For more on the victory, check out our long piece “After Ten-Year Battle, A Younger Generation Leads the Way at Volkswagen.”)

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]