News & Commentary

December 12, 2023

Sunah Chang

Sunah Chang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: UAW files unfair labor practice charges against Honda, Hyundai, and Volkswagen, Tesla continues to face pressure from the Nordic region for its anti-union stance, a new federal report links a fatal poultry plant gas release to poor workplace safety conditions, and a Wall Street Journal article reflects on the biggest union wins of 2023. 

The UAW has filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against Honda, Hyundai, and Volkswagen. The union has alleged that the three automakers have committed various illegal union-busting tactics in response to increased organizing efforts at their U.S. plants. Among other allegations, the union has claimed that Volkswagen has threatened workers for discussing union representation and has confiscated and destroyed pro-union materials in the break room. The union has also alleged that Honda has targeted workers for pro-union activity and that Hyundai has “unlawfully confiscated, destroyed, and prohibited pro-union materials in nonwork areas during nonwork times.”

These NLRB filings come just two weeks after the union publicly announced its goal of organizing workers at 13 other automakers in the U.S. Following its successes in securing contracts with the Big Three automakers, the UAW has turned to organizing other major automobile companies. Thus far, hundreds of workers at Honda’s Greensburg plant and Hyundai’s Montgomery plant along with over a thousand workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant have signed union cards to join the UAW. 

In more automaker news, Tesla continues to confront backlash in Europe for its anti-union stance. Yesterday, pension funds based in the Nordic region announced that they would submit a joint letter to Tesla urging the automaker to respect the collective bargaining rights of Nordic workers. In October, Swedish mechanics working for Tesla walked off the job after the automaker refused to adopt a collective agreement with the workers. Shortly after, members of other unions in the region, including dockworkers and postal workers, joined the strike in solidarity. The pushback against Tesla has spread beyond organized labor. Some pension funds have sold their shares in Tesla, and many other pension funds have announced that they would sign onto the joint letter demanding that Tesla sign a collective agreement with its workers.

Yesterday, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board released a report investigating a 2021 gas release at a Georgia chicken processing plant, which resulted in the death of six workers. The board found that the nitrogen release at the Foundation Food plant was caused by a series of mechanical and planning failures, including a broken gauge in a freezer’s control system. The report criticized Foundation Food’s lack of safety practices and also faulted Messer LLC, the company that designed and leased the freezer, for supplying nitrogen to Foundation Food despite identifying safety issues. Finally, the board noted that current federal workplace safety regulations fail to adequately regulate liquid nitrogen and urged OSHA to implement a standard for protecting workers from cryogenic liquids and gasses.

As the year comes to an end, the Wall Street Journal has published an article highlighting some of the biggest labor victories of 2023, which summarizes the gains that autoworkers, Hollywood actors and writers, Airline pilots, UPS workers, and Las Vegas casino workers have achieved this year.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.