NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The United Auto Workers is expected to announce Thursday the creation of a local chapter to represent workers at Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga and that the automaker has agreed to work with the union, NewsChannel 5 has learned.
That news would mark a major new development in a political tug-of-war with Tennessee Republicans who fought for much of the past year to stop the UAW.
Union supporters at the plant were told Wednesday night to expect a major announcement Thursday afternoon in Chattanooga.
UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel confirmed the essential elements of NewsChannel 5's report Thursday morning to The Tennessean.
"We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees," Casteel said. "It's dependent on the employees and what they want to do."
Under the terms of the agreement explained to NewsChannel 5 Investigates, no VW worker would be required to join the newly formed Local 42. Volkswagen would, however, work with the union toward creating a German-style works council to give employees a role in running the plant.
Casteel suggested to The Tennessean that whether the UAW will be able to set up a works council and get formal recognition will depend on whether it can get a majority of VW workers to join.
Still, it would give the UAW its first strategic foothold inside a foreign-owned auto plant in the South and allow it to start recruiting new members.
Back in February, following a vigorous anti-union campaign mounted by Republicans and other conservative groups, Volkswagen workers rejected the UAW on a 712-626 vote.
However, prior to that campaign, the union had claimed to have a majority of workers signing up through a petition process, known as "card check."
The UAW appealed that vote to the National Labor Relations Board, even attempting to subpoena Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker and other Republicans to testify at a hearing back in April.
That came after NewsChannel 5 Investigates uncovered a confidential document, showing that the Haslam administration had offered Volkswagen some $300 million in incentives to help it expand the Chattanooga plant.
Those incentives were contingent upon talks with the UAW being concluded to the "satisfaction" of the administration.
But the UAW suddenly dropped its appeal right before that scheduled hearing, saying it wanted to clear the way for the addition of a new SUV line to the facility.
In recent weeks, the Haslam administration confirmed that it had renewed negotiations with Volkswagen over a new incentive package.
Haslam spokesman Dave Smith told NewsChannel 5 in an email, "It is most appropriate for the company to speak for itself on this issue. Our understanding is that there is no agreement between the company and the UAW.”