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UAW Hopes To Pull VW From The Non-Union Wagon.

Rather than an American manufacturer leading the way, Volkswagen has forged ahead with non-union labor at its busy plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The company has created over 2,700 jobs.

It may sound like a success story, but to the UAW, it’s grounds for action.

“The United Auto Workers union,” The Tennessean reports, “has begun passing out cards to employees of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga to determine whether there is enough support to hold a union representation election.”

Despite the UAW’s fast reflexes, workers at the Chattanooga plant show little sign of discontent with their contractual arrangements:

Some employees said they had seen the cards or were aware of the union’s interest in organizing the plant, but there seems to be no clear consensus on whether there would be enough support to force a union election, much less on whether the UAW could win that vote if it occurred. (The Tennessean, 4/2/12)

The Huffington Post’s David Kiley writes that the outcome of the initiative will be “perhaps the biggest single decider on whether the union ever organizes any of the foreign-brand factories in the U.S.”

Tennessee, moreover, is a right-to-work state. And, Kiley notes, the UAW has already failed to catch on with workers at American plants run by Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Toyota.

It all adds up to a lot on the line for the UAW if they get their foot in the door with Volkswagen. Kiley’s visited several foreign auto plants in the South, including the VW plant in Tennessee. He’s talked “freely” with line workers in “a few cases” — and his takeaway from those conversations ought to give the UAW a great deal to think about.

What I observed is an attitude of gratitude for the work, the opportunity for a career, and the investments in these local areas. It’s a very different atmosphere and attitude than I have observed in northern union plants where you commonly find a lot of third- and fourth-generation union workers who were sold a long time ago on the idea that they could retire at 48 on full pension and benefits, and are frustrated that the game changed on them. (The Huffington Post, 3/23/12)

Gratitude, opportunity, investment; if that’s a game change, it’s hard to see how that’s anything but a change for the better — especially for Volkswagen’s nonunion workers.  Source:  LaborPains .org


So What Does The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act Mean?

The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act became effective on January 1, 2012 for employers with 500 or more employees and governmental entities. Under the new laws, employers may enroll and use E-Verify for newly-hired employees, or it may accept, copy and maintain a state-issued driver’s license or identification, unexpired U.S. passport, permanent resident card, work authorization, birth certificate, certificate of naturalization, or a few other forms of identification from newly-hired employees.

You will note the documents above are redundant of documentation needed for I-9 verification. The only real difference is the requirement to maintain a copy of the identification document. Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), an employer is not required to maintain a copy of the presented documents from List A or Lists B and C.

A second provision in the law involves a “non-employee” providing labor or services to an employer. A “non-employee” is defined as “any individual, other than an employee, paid directly by the employer in exchange for the individual’s services.” If an employer contracts with an individual/non-employee, it must request and maintain a copy of one of the specified documents, such as state-issued driver’s license or identification. However, a subcontractor, who is not an individual, is not covered by this provision under the definition of non-employee.

An employer violates the law by failing to receive E-Verify confirmation or to request and maintain a copy of one of the specified identification documents. An employer has a “safe harbor” and cannot be found to have violated the law by employing an employee without work authorization if the employer utilized E-Verify and received a confirmation or the employee appealed the tentative non-confirmation and the appeal has not been resolved. This “safe harbor” is not available for employers who copy and maintain an employee’s driver’s license or identification if the employee is found to be working without employment authorization.

The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act is being phased in:

  • Employers with 200 to 499 employees must comply by July 1, 2012.
  • Employers with six to 199 employees by January 1, 2013.
  • Employers with five or fewer employees are exempt from the law.

Any lawful resident of Tennessee or a federal agency employee may file a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which will investigate such complaints. This provision is an extension of the current law which only allows state or local officials to file a complaint alleging an employer’s employment of an unauthorized worker.

The penalties for the new law are: 

    • First offense – $500 penalty + $500 per employee or non-employee not verified or copy of documentation maintained;
    • Second offense – $1,000 penalty + $1,000 per employee or non-employee not verified or copy of documentation maintained; and
    • Third offense – $2,500 penalty + $2,500 per employee or non-employee not verified or copy of documentation maintained.

One unanswered question is how is the number of employees employed by a company determined – all employees employed in Tennessee or all employees nationwide, if a company has employees in other states. The statute is silent on this matter, which implies the number of employees is based on overall employees, not just Tennessee employees.

– If so, then does the Tennessee statute require the company in non-Tennessee locations to maintain a copy of an I-9 document in order to be consistent companywide?

– If so, does this create a federal preemption issue with IRCA?

After the law passed in 2011, it appeared its proponents would attempt to amend the statute in 2012 to make E-Verify mandatory. However, it appears the 2012 legislature has decided to not concentrate on making E-Verify mandatory; rather, it is focusing on a limited number of immigration bills.

Source: Bruce Buchanan, with King & Ballow, represents employers in many areas of labor, employment, and immigration law as well as individuals in immigration law. Mr. Buchanan has presented at many professional education programs on the NLRA, FMLA, FLSA, and immigration law. He will be speaking at Sterling’s Labor and Employment Law 2012 in Nashville March 2012.

Before joining King & Ballow, he worked for 20 years as senior trial specialist for the NLRB. Mr. Buchanan has also served as adjunct professor at William H. Bowen University of Arkansas – Little Rock School of Law, where he taught courses in labor law, employment law and sports law.

What HR Should Know About Tornadoes And Crisis Management.

Ahh, another day of watching Dr. Forbes and his TORCON tornado forecasts for us here in Tennessee.  Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught many businesses on the Gulf Coast a valuable lesson about the ability of management to plan for every contingency–it cannot. What managers can do is learn from tragedy when it strikes and try to be better prepared the next time. We examine crisis management from a human resource perspective and offer insights into how to minimize losses and disruption should disaster occur. HR managers’ centralized location for employee relations, and expertise in communications, writing human resource policies and procedures, and employee training and development offers them the opportunity to make valuable contributions in crisis management planning and implementation. Through lessons learned from these recent storms, we offer specific recommendations on how HR managers can do so. Using examples of how organizations responded to these crises, we illustrate what worked well and what did not in HR.

Recent events have underscored the need to think about the unthinkable. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita taught many businesses on the Gulf Coast valuable lessons about the abilities of management to plan for every contingency–it cannot. No matter how forward-thinking company managers are, there is no way to plan for every possibility when a crisis strikes. What managers can do is learn from tragedy when it does happen and try to be better prepared the next time.  Read the full text by Sonya F. Premeaux & Denise Breaux at

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