Service & Solidarity Spotlight: Volkswagen Workers Become First Southern Autoworkers to Win Their Union

Volkswagen Chattanooga Joins UAW

Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our Service & Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

In a historic victory, 73% of Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted to join the UAW. The Volkswagen workers are the first Southern autoworkers outside of the Big Three to win a union.

“This election is big,” said Kelcey Smith, a worker in the paint department at Volkswagen (VW). “People in high places told us good things can’t happen here in Chattanooga. They told us this isn’t the time to stand up, this isn’t the place. But we did stand up and we won. This is the time; this is the place. Southern workers are ready to stand up and win a better life.”  

“We saw the big contract that UAW workers won at the Big Three and that got everybody talking,” said Zachary Costello, a trainer in VW’s proficiency room. “You see the pay, the benefits, the rights UAW members have on the job, and you see how that would change your life. That’s why we voted overwhelmingly for the union. Once people see the difference a union makes, there’s no way to stop them.”    

“This is a movement for every blue-collar worker in America,” said Doug Snyder, a body worker at Volkswagen. “Our vote shows that workers everywhere want a better life on and off the job. Fair pay is important, but so is time with our families. So is a voice for safety in our plant. We’re looking forward to getting to the bargaining table with the company and winning a contract that makes things right at Volkswagen.”

“We congratulate the Volkswagen workers, our UAW family and UAW President Shawn Fain for this monumental victory in Chattanooga,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “The victory at Volkswagen’s plant in Tennessee marks a historic milestone for workers across the state and the broader South. Led by a diverse coalition of young activists, this triumph challenges outdated labor laws and sets new standards for collective bargaining power. It symbolizes a shift away from the old economic model that prioritizes the profits of big corporations to a new era where working people have the power to shape our futures.”