UAW loses VW vote, blames ‘outrageous’ Republican interference; Corker ‘thrilled’

Leaders of the United Auto Workers union, who claimed to have majority support from Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga last year, said they appear to have lost some support this week when Tennessee Republican leaders suggested that the union might limit chances for a plant expansion and make the GOP-controlled Legislature less willing to help the German auto maker expand, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

“We started to see some movement when the governor made his comments (saying the union could hurt economic recruitment),” said Dennis Williams, secretary treasurer for the UAW. “Then Sen. (Bob) Corker who said he was not going to get involved came back (to Chattanooga) and had a press conference. We had a feeling that something was happening.”

In three days of voting this week, hourly employees at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga voted 712 to 626 not to be represented by the UAW. UAW President Bob King said the 43-vote margin of loss for the union “was very, very difficult” and may have been influenced by political comments this week.

On Monday, Hamilton County’s Republican legislative delegation said it would be harder to get approval for incentives for a VW expansion if workers voted to be represented by the UAW

“We’re outraged at the outside interference in this election,” King said . “Never before in this country have we had a U.S. senator, a governor, and a leader of the Legislature threaten the company with no incentives (for a plant expansion) and threaten workers with a loss of product. It’s outrageous.”

Meanwhile, here’s the celebratory news release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker:
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., today released the following statement.

“Needless to say, I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future,” said Corker.

As mayor of Chattanooga from 2001-2005, Corker worked with officials and community leaders to develop the 1,200 acre Enterprise South Industrial Park, which is now home to Volkswagen’s North American manufacturing headquarters. Much of the negotiation that led to Volkswagen choosing Chattanooga occurred around the dining room table of Corker’s Chattanooga home.

News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville)
issued the following response to the Volkswagen workers’ decision not to be
represented by the UAW.

“While we respect the decision made by Volkswagen workers, the result does not
excuse the outrageous and unprecedented conduct by Tennessee’s Republican
elected officials. The intimidation tactics and coercive efforts should be
condemned, regardless of the outcome tonight. Workers deserved the right to vote
without being pressured by outside special interests and elected officials, but
that did not happen.”