The United Auto Workers asked the National Labor Relations Board to overturn its defeat in an election at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant. And while the defeat came as a blow to the union, labor law experts such as Ballard Spahr partner Steven W. Suflas say that the defeat is hardly the death knell for organized labor.

The UAW lost the representative election, which took place as an NLRB-supervised secret-ballot vote, by a 712-626 vote on Valentine’s Day. But the union filed objections urging the board to set aside the election, claiming that interference from politicians and special interest groups curbed the workers’ ability to exercise their rights to join the union’s ranks.

Several politicians did speak out publicly on the issue. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) claimed the workers would be rewarded with the production of a new SUV line if they rejected the union. Even still, the UAW could have a hard time convincing the NLRB that this violated federal labor law.

“For a state senator to say, ‘We’re not going to provide enhancements to attract more business to VW in Chattanooga if they vote for the union,’ – well, if the employer were to say that, it would be about as extreme an unfair labor practice as you can have,” Mr. Suflas said. “But given the stance VW took publicly, it is impossible to pin that on them factually or legally. You’ve got an NLRB that is actively revisiting lots of established legal principles.”

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