In a landmark decision that could reshape the landscape of labor unions in the American South, workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, have overwhelmingly voted to join the United Auto Workers (UAW).

Following the counting of 3,613 ballots, the final tally revealed 2,628 votes in favor of joining the UAW, with 985 votes against. Impressively, 73% of workers opted in favor of unionization.

This resounding victory marks a significant shift, especially considering the region’s historical skepticism toward unions. Despite strong opposition from state Republican leaders and the business community, the UAW managed to secure a decisive win.

Early in the vote count, it became evident that the UAW had successfully garnered substantial support. Yes votes consistently outnumbered no votes by a ratio of approximately 3 to 1, maintaining this lead throughout the process.

Quinton North, who had previously voted against unionization in the 2019 election at Volkswagen, attributed his change of heart to the leadership of UAW President Shawn Fain.

“He’s really demonstrated his commitment to the workers,” North remarked at a UAW-organized watch party in Chattanooga.

In a celebratory address to the watch party attendees following the completion of the tally, Fain extended a warm welcome to the Volkswagen workers and expressed gratitude for their determination.

“You all have just taken a significant step in asserting your rights as working-class individuals,” Fain declared, eliciting enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.

Approximately 4,300 hourly workers at the plant were eligible to cast their votes during this week’s election. The union needed a simple majority of votes to secure victory.

Acknowledging the high voter turnout of 83.5%, the German automaker issued a brief statement expressing appreciation to its Chattanooga workers for participating in the election.


The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has historically been a site marked by setbacks for the United Auto Workers (UAW).

The Volkswagen vote garnered considerable attention, particularly in light of the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) prior unsuccessful attempts to organize the same Chattanooga plant in both 2014 and 2019. This event unfolded against a backdrop of similar endeavors at various other auto manufacturing facilities across the Southern United States, many of which also ended without success.

A significant factor contributing to these past failures is the comparative prosperity of these positions in relation to other employment opportunities within the region. Consequently, a substantial portion of the workforce has not perceived the necessity for union representation. Furthermore, Southern states have enticed foreign automakers with substantial financial incentives, coupled with assurances that these companies could avoid dealing with the UAW if they so chose.

This strategy proved effective, leading to the establishment of approximately a dozen foreign automobile plants in the region over the past three decades. Companies such as Nissan, Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz, among others, collectively generated tens of thousands of employment opportunities, bolstering the Southern economy in the process.


Politicians warned jobs were in jeopardy

Republican leaders in Tennessee had issued stark warnings, cautioning that potential job losses loomed should workers opt to align themselves with the United Auto Workers (UAW).

“Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee expressed his belief that it would be a significant misstep for these workers to jeopardize their future by relinquishing their autonomy to decide their fate independently and instead entrust it to a negotiator acting on their behalf,” remarked Lee during a recent visit to Chattanooga.

The UAW’s concentrated efforts in the Southern region, supported by a substantial $40 million budget allocation, have prompted apprehension among various state officials.

In a unified stance against the unionization campaign, Governor Lee joined counterparts from Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama in a collective statement denouncing the initiative.

“The truth of the matter is, companies possess the flexibility to choose where they invest and establish employment opportunities,” asserted the joint statement. “The prospect of unionization undoubtedly places the livelihoods of our states’ workforce in jeopardy — indeed, this year alone, all UAW-affiliated automakers have announced workforce reductions.”

Additionally, Tesla, despite being non-unionized, disclosed significant workforce reductions earlier this week.

President Biden, in extending congratulations to the Volkswagen employees for their “historic decision,” rebuked the actions of the implicated politicians.

“In response to the Republican governors’ attempts to undermine this pivotal vote, let me be unequivocal: American workers should harbor no trepidation in utilizing their voices and exercising their lawful right to form a union if they so desire,” articulated President Biden in a written statement.


The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, stood as the solitary facility within the global Volkswagen network devoid of worker representation.

In a statement featured on its website, Volkswagen expressed its commitment to upholding the democratic process, stating, “We respect our employees’ right to decide this important issue through a democratic process and to determine who should represent their interests.”

Assembly worker Joshua Treece, who cast his vote in favor of unionization, remarked that the company appeared largely impartial as the election approached. He noted, “The only negative sentiments stemmed from other employees who were opposed to it.”

The Chattanooga plant is responsible for the production of Volkswagen’s Atlas SUV and the ID.4 electric SUV. Remarkably, it stood as the sole Volkswagen facility worldwide without worker representation prior to the recent vote.

With the conclusion of the vote at Volkswagen, the focus of the union now shifts to the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama. There, a union election is set to commence on May 13, involving approximately 5,200 workers.