The secret-ballot vote in Chattanooga, scheduled for Feb. 12-14, was set by the National Labor Relations Board after Germany-based Volkswagen and the UAW reached an agreement Tuesday to let the workers have their say.
"Volkswagen Group of America and the UAW have agreed to this common path for the election," Frank Fischer, CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said in a statement released Tuesday.
Fischer also said that VW is committed to neutrality in the voting and calls upon all third parties to honor that neutrality.
Making the VW plant a union stronghold would be a reversal of fortune for the UAW. Membership in the union has fallen dramatically from a high of 1.5 million in 1979 to just barely 400,000 in 2012. Nearly all those are at American car makers, with the only foreign automaker in the U.S. with union members being a Mitsubishi assembly plant in Normal, Ill.
Total union membership in the U.S. however, remained the same in 2013 as it was in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—after years of decline.
Tennessee is one of 24 states with "right-to-work" laws that allow nonunion workers to receive the benefits of union representation without having to pay union dues—and so making it somewhat easier to beat back union organizing efforts.
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UAW organizers have reportedly said they have a enough backing to pass the vote. However, business groups in the state, along with GOP Gov. Bill Haslam, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and some VW workers at the plant, are against it.
In a highly visible public relations effort to get workers to vote no, opponents say a union would drive away business investment in the state because of the higher wages that would follow a pro-union vote.
But proponents of unions say that argument goes against common sense.
"The fact is, people will spend more if they make more and create more jobs," said Emily Rosenberg, director of the Labor Education Center at DePaul University. "It's good to have higher wages. Everyone benefits, from workers to businesses."