By Jeff Gilbert

Volkswagen’s top North American executive is downplaying talk about his company’s new Tennessee factory becoming the first “transplant” factory to recognize the UAW as a bargaining agent for its workers.

“There’s been no discussion in the Chattanooga facilities,” said Don Jackson, who’s President of manufacturing for Volkswagen Chattanooga. “There’s been a lot of discussion in Europe. But, I’m not privy to that information directly.”

Most of Volkswagen’s other plants around the world are organized. UAW Vice President Bob King has reportedly met with European labor leaders to discuss strategy. Many analysts feel Volkswagen might be a more receptive target, because of its history of dealing with unions.

When he began talks with General Motors last week, King said that he believed negotiations with the domestic three companies could help his union in its efforts to organize foreign owned plants.

“We’re gonna organize the transplant facilities, because we’re going to level the competitive playing field for our membership, and for General Motors.”

King could have more to say on the subject when he speaks to the Management Briefing Seminars on Wednesday. Jackson made his comments to reporters after his Monday speech to the same session.

Volkswagen has not agreed to the UAW’s organizing principals, Jackson said, and has not been asked to allow union negotiators into the plants.

“It’s based on the team members,” he said. “If the team members think they need a union, we’ll respect their thoughts on that.”

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant has just started ramping up production of the new Passat. It will go on sale later this month or next month.

“We just hired our 2 thousandth employee last week,” said Jackson, who told reporters the plant is working on integrating a second shift into their operations.

“Two thousand encompasses both shifts together. We’re about 75 percent ready to go as far as training and development.”


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