UAW trying different approach to unionize Volkswagen plant

July 11, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

Despite two failed attempts to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United Auto Workers (UAW) on July 10 announced the creation of Local 42, a local that Chattanooga VW workers can join voluntarily.

“We’ve had ongoing discussions with Volkswagen and have arrived at a consensus with the company,” Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer, said in a statement about the union’s latest move. “Upon Local 42 signing up a meaningful portion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workforce, we’re confident the company will recognize Local 42 by dealing with it as a members’ union that represents those employees who join the local. As part of this consensus, the UAW is committed to continuing its joint efforts with Volkswagen to ensure the company’s expansion and growth in Chattanooga.”

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New Tennessee wrongful discharge law favorable to employers

by David Johnson

A new Tennessee law going into effect on July 1 puts a cap on damages employees can collect in wrongful termination claims.

Public Chapter 995 affects the Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA), the Tennessee Public Protection Act (TPPA), and the Tennessee Disability Act (TDA). The new law imposes a cap on compensatory damages aggrieved employees can recover under all three statutes for future monetary losses, emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other nonmonetary losses.

The caps depend on the number of employees an employer has. The caps range from $25,000 for employers with eight to 15 employees to $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees. The caps don’t apply to back pay, interest on back pay, front pay, or equitable relief.

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Puerto Rico may implement first far-reaching antibullying law

June 06, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

by Tammy Binford

Puerto Rico employers may soon be required to take steps to prevent workplace bullying. The territory’s legislature passedshutterstock_163151582 Senate Bill 501, an antibullying measure, on June 3. If the bill is signed by Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Puerto Rico will become the first U.S. jurisdiction to pass a comprehensive law against workplace bullying.

The bill would cover public and private employers and would require them to implement policies to prevent and investigate bullying. The measure also would require employers to impose appropriate sanctions when necessary, according to a Google translation of the bill from Spanish to English.

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Tennessee legislation will amend THRA, TPPA

by David L. Johnson

On May 13, the Tennessee General Assembly passed House Bill 1954/Senate Bill 2126, which will significantly amend the Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA) and the Tennessee Public Protection Act (TPPA) in a manner favorable to employers. Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign the bill later this month. Once signed, it will take effect on July 1, 2014.

The legislation imposes a cap on compensatory damages an aggrieved employee may recover for future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other nonpecuniary losses under both the THRA and the TPPA.

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UAW plans to take fight over VW vote to Congress

April 22, 2014 - by: Tammy Binford 0 COMMENTS

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has dropped its appeal of a union vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but instead of giving up, the union says it will turn its attention toward Congress.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had scheduled an April 21 hearing in Chattanooga on the appeal of a February union election in which workers at the plant rejected unionization 712-626. Just an hour before the hearing was to begin, the UAW announced it was dropping its appeal. A UAW statement claimed the “NLRB’s historically dysfunctional and complex process” led it to drop the appeal.

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Volkswagen’s Chattanooga workers reject UAW representation

by Bart Sisk, David Jaqua, and Valeria Gomez

The votes are in, and the wait is over. In what can only be characterized as a major setback for organized labor, Volkswagen’s Chattanooga employees have voted to reject union representation by the United Auto Workers union (UAW).  

Eighty-nine percent of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga employees participated in the election, which was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and took place on February 12-14. With 53 percent of workers voting against UAW representation, the union lost the election by a vote of 712-626. Through a press release issued by Volkswagen, Frank Fischer, CEO and chairman of Volkswagen Chattanooga, announced, “Our employees have not made a decision that they are against a works council. Throughout this process, we found great enthusiasm for the idea of an American-style works council both inside and outside our plant. Our goal continues to be to determine the best method for establishing a works council in accordance with the requirements of U.S. labor law to meet VW America’s production needs and serve our employees’ interests.”

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Tennessee’s “guns in trunks” law takes effect July 1

by Kara E. Shea

The Tennessee law giving handgun carry permit holders the right to transport and store firearms and/or ammunition in their vehicles parked in an employer’s parking lot goes into effect July 1. With the enforcement deadline at hand, employers understandably want to know whether they need to alter current “no weapons” policies that ban weapons on all parts of their property, including parking lots. Unfortunately, the answer remains uncertain, although a recent opinion from the state attorney general seems to indicate that you still may be able to enforce such policies.

To recap, the popularly dubbed “guns in trunks” bill was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on March 14 after it passed by a wide margin in both the Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives. Previous versions of the law faced resistance from the Tennessee business community last year, but it passed easily this year, helped along by provisions of the new bill stating that businesses won’t be liable for damages or injuries caused by firearms stored by employees on their premises in accordance with the new law.

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New Tennessee law prohibits local mandates on pay, benefits

by Kara Shea

On April 11, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a bill prohibiting local governments from mandating health insurance benefits, leave policies, hourly wage standards, or prevailing wage standards that deviate from existing requirements of state and federal law as a condition of doing business with or within the jurisdiction of the local government.

The new law means that cities and towns in Tennessee may not establish prevailing wages higher than the federal minimum wage and/or state or federal prevailing wages. Any such local laws already on the books (e.g., the living wage ordinances enacted by Memphis and Shelby County a few years ago) are no longer enforceable.

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Tennessee House passes guns-in-cars bill

Update: On March 14, 2013, Governor Bill Haslam signed SB 0142, which allows person with a valid handgun carry permit to transport and store a firearm or firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s privately-owned motor vehicle in public or private parking areas under certain conditions. 

by Kara Shea and Sara Anne Quinn

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Tennessee Senate OK’s ‘guns in parking lots’ bill

Legislation giving handgun carry permit holders the right to keep guns in their vehicles in public parking lots, including their employer’s parking lot, passed the Tennessee Senate Monday evening, 28-5.

The bill, which will go to the House Civil Justice Subcommittee Wednesday afternoon, would give civil immunity to employers for deaths, injuries, or damage involving guns brought onto parking lots by employees. Under the bill, employers could continue to ban firearms for those without carry permits.

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