The United Auto Workers recently committed to establishing a voluntary local chapter at Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga plant. The move will allow the UAW to continue its organizing efforts in the South, in the aftermath of a February 2014 lost election among VW workers.

Although the planned voluntary local could have a strictly limited impact in the short term, employees could still benefit from joining if VW agrees to deal with the union by, for example, letting union representatives take part in discussions related to grievances.

Steven W. Suflas, a labor and employment partner with Ballard Spahr, said, “VW may go ahead and recognize the union anyway. Although it would certainly be very odd ... my gut reaction is, I don't think there's anything wrong with that [from a legal perspective].”

Mr. Suflas also said the local chapter would give the UAW a chance to build a track record that it could later cite if it pursued another representation election in Chattanooga in 2015. According to Mr. Suflas, the local chapter gives the union a way to make employees comfortable with the notion of a union and to “start showing some tangible activities and benefits.”

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Labor and Employment