Works Councils

In Germany, employees have a Works Council. What is a Works Council?

Works Councils in Germany are created under the German Works Constitution Act. The United States does not have such a law mandating or providing for Works Councils. A Works Council is an elected body from within the company. On the other hand, unions in the United States like the UAW are not part of the Company. And unlike a Works Council, unions in the United States can charge their members dues.

Do employees in Germany have to pay money to their Works Council?

No.  In Germany, the company pays the costs associated with the Works Council.  In the United States, unions like UAW charge their members with dues and special assessments to fund their operations.

Can companies in the United States pay money to the UAW or to a Works Council?

No.  Federal law makes it illegal for a company to pay money or give any other thing of value to a labor organization, like the UAW or Works Council.

How is a Works Council in Germany different than a union in the United States?

There are several important differences, but the main difference is called “co-determination.”  In Germany, a company may not take measures on important workplace issues, such as company rules, wage structure, and hours, without the consent of the Works Council.  Neither can the company make personnel decisions or decide to close or relocate a plant without the Works Council’s consent.   In the United States, such required cooperation is illegal.  Under the National Labor Relations Act, a company does not have to agree to any union proposal that limits its rights.

Doesn’t a union have to cooperate with companies in the United States?

No.  The law does not require the UAW to cooperate with the Volkswagen either.  Remember, unlike a German Works Council that is formed from within the company, a union has its own goals and objectives.

I’ve been told that if the union wins the election, the UAW be part of the Volkswagen Works Council in Germany. Is this accurate?

We do not know what actions, if any, the European works council may take if the UAW wins the election. We do know that a European style works council is unlawful under US labor law, and that if the UAW wins the election, there cannot be a European style works council at the Chattanooga plant.