U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Friday said top Volkswagen leaders aren’t pushing United Auto Workers’ efforts in Chattanooga and he contended there’s no link between plant expansion and setting up a factory works council.
Further from the Chattanooga TFP: A UAW official said VW employees won’t be “intimidated by outside forces,” and that the German automaker has “an outstanding track record” of working with organized labor globally.
The two sides weighed into the VW issue as a Washington, D.C., group Friday officially launched a summerlong “education campaign” about the UAW and its efforts to organize the VW plant.
Corker, a Tennessee Republican who helped negotiate the incentives package to bring Volkswagen to Chattanooga, said he has talked to VW leaders numerous times and “there’s not a push by the executive leadership or the board toward the UAW.”
“I know for a fact that at the highest levels of VW, they’re aware that if the UAW became involved in the plant, it would be a negative for the future economic growth of our state,” he said.
However, Gary Casteel, a UAW regional director in Lebanon, Tenn., said the auto companies and their employees represented by the union are prospering.
The Spring Hill, Tenn., plant run by General Motors has been resurrected and now has 2,000 workers, he said. Ford Motor Co. employees at a plant in his region last year received $8,000 profit-sharing bonuses and could receive $10,000 each this year, Casteel said.
Chrysler, meanwhile, is recording the fastest-growing market share among automakers, he said.
“We’re doing fine,” Casteel said.
Still, Corker said the possibility that the UAW could represent workers at the VW plant has affected recruitment of other businesses to Tennessee.
“It has already created some obstacles to us,” he said. “I think the leadership at the [Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce] believes that if the UAW established a stronghold in our area, it would be a negative,” he said.
The former Chattanooga mayor termed “totally and absolutely false” a claim last week by a top German VW works council official that it would block the possibility of Chattanooga landing new production until the issue of a works council is clear at the plant.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that the possibility of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant becoming unionized is coming up as a topic of concern among other industries the state is trying to recruit to Tennessee, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. The Republican governor, who opposes the United Auto Workers’ unionization efforts, said he has “heard that from some of the other people considering Tennessee that that would be a negative in their mind if that happened in Chattanooga.”
“So,” Haslam continued, “we’ve communicated that to Volkswagen. Ultimately, like I said, we want to see them [Volkswagen] grow here.”
Meanwhile, an international labor expert said that German labor leaders backing the organizing effort in Chattanooga could influence whether a potential new model is produced in Tennessee or Mexico. Lowell Turner, a Cornell University international and comparative labor professor, said he interpreted a statement last week by a top leader in VW’s global works council to mean that “We’d like to see representation [in Chattanooga] and for it to happen before we look at expansion there.”
“If we can expand somewhere else with a more friendly environment, why expand in a place that’s hostile to unions and worker representation,” Turner said he thought was the message.
Last week, VW Group deputy works council chief Stephan Wolf threatened to block expansion in Chattanooga unless a similar labor panel is put into place at the factory.
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press has a rundown on the “increasingly pitched battle over unionizing Volkswagen’s auto assembly plant” in Southeast Tennessee. A Washington, D.C.-based group is ramping up a summer-long campaign to convince plant workers and Chattanoogans in general about what it calls “devastating” consequences for the factory, city and state should the employees unionize.
Pro-union forces, such as the Michigan-based United Auto Workers, continue to press their case for what they say is “a new model” where the workforce and management aren’t adversarial but rather vie for the same goal.
Matt Patterson, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center For Economic Freedom, said his group has put up a billboard on Highway 153, just a few miles from the VW plant, to help get its message across about the dangers of unions and the UAW.
The billboard depicts a rundown former Detroit, Mich., auto plant and states “Auto unions ATE Detroit. Next meal: Chattanooga?”
Plans are to begin efforts to educate business leaders, politicians and citizens “about the history, tactics and legacy of this powerful union,” according to a website, WorkplaceChoice.org, sponsored by the group.
Patterson said he’s talking with local tea party activists to discuss strategy in terms of distributing materials such as pamphlets.
…Ed Hunter, a Volkswagen employee and union supporter, said education efforts are ongoing to inform employees about a German-style works council labor board and “the new UAW.”
“Our group is expanding every day,” he said, adding that people see the German model as one in which “everybody is working for the same goal.”
At the VW plant, Juergen Stumpf, who has extensive experience as an employee representative in the VW Group and is considered an expert on the German works councils system, has been assigned to the Chattanooga factory.
“Mr. Stumpf is currently on assignment in Chattanooga to be an information resource for the local management and employees regarding the German model of co-determination,” said plant spokesman Scott Wilson.
News release from TBI:
Union County, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation presented its case to the Union County grand jury this week which resulted in the indictments of seven individuals for providing drugs or assisting in the introduction of the drugs into the Union County Jail.
Union County Jail inmates provided information to jail officials that drugs were illegally provided to an inmate in the jail who later died at Tennova Hospital in Knoxville. An autopsy performed on the deceased inmate failed to determine that the drugs were the cause of death. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, after conducting an investigation into the matter, obtained indictments against seven individuals for either providing the drugs or assisting in the introduction of the drugs into the penal facility.
Allen Wilkerson, 48, and Dakota Kidd, 20, were indicted on five separate counts of Conspiracy to Deliver Schedule II and Schedule IV, Conspiracy to Introduce Contraband into a Penal Facility, Introduction of Contraband into a Penal Facility and Possession of Contraband in a Penal Facility. Sheridan Brogdon, 29, Albert Allen, 31, Robin Wilkerson, 43, Cregory Thatcher, 26, and Johnny Johnson, 32, were all indicted on six separate counts of Conspiracy to Deliver Schedule II and Schedule IV, Conspiracy to Introduce Contraband into a Penal Facility, Introduction of Contraband into a Penal Facility and Delivery of Schedule II and Schedule IV.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals and Union County Sheriff’s Office affected the arrest of these seven individuals.
The 8th Judicial District Attorney and the Union County Sheriff’s Office requested that TBI investigate the incident.
Gov. Bill Haslam has weighed in on reports that Volkswagen is talking with the United Auto Workers about the Chattanooga plant, saying workers like the current nonunion structure, reports the Chattanooga TFP. “I would hate for anything to happen that would hurt the productivity of the plant or to deter investment in Chattanooga,” Haslam said in a statement.
The Republican governor said Tennessee is a right-to-work state and that he has talked to a number of VW employees who are “very comfortable” with the way things are now at the factory.
“Volkswagen continues to be incredibly successful with the current structure,” the governor said.
He added that VW is an “outstanding employer that puts a lot of focus on employee satisfaction,” but the decision regarding a works council and the UAW ultimately will be one for the company and its 3,200 employees.
Horst Neumann, VW’s board member in charge of human resources, has said the automaker was in talks with the UAW about setting up a German-style labor board at the plant that produces the Passat sedan.
According to an Automotive News report, Neumann said the company may release a plan for the works council labor board in May or June, and formal talks with a union could begin in the second half of the year if VW’s managing board approves.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Wednesday the issue is whether to develop something like the European model for cooperative labor and management relations.
He said that move is “not the more confrontational model that we are accustomed to in the United States.”
The Tennessee Conservative Union is launching a statewide media campaign in support of a bill banning “mountaintop removal” coal mining, warning the Volunteer State has “become the first state in America to permit a communist Chinese company to destroy our mountains.” From Andy Sher’s report: “The Tennessee Conservative Union is 100 percent Pro-Coal, but our organization does not support destroying our mountain heritage,” TCU Chairman Lloyd Daugherty “Mountaintop removal mining kills jobs because it takes fewer workers to blow up a mountain.”
The ad alludes to a Wall Street Journal MarketWatch article from last May which revealed that China-based Guizhou Gouchuang Energy Holdings Group said it had raised $616 million in a private placement to be used mainly to acquire and develop Triple H Coal Company in Jacksboro, Tenn.
That would make Guizhou Gouchuang the first Chinese company to invest in coal in America, MarketWatch reported.
It also quoted an unnamed top executive at Shenhua Group, a wholly state-owned Chinese company, saying Tennessee coal mines were attracting great interest in China as energy companies look at U.S. coal mines.
— Note: TCU’s video ad on the issue is HERE.
The news release is below.
Gov. Bill Haslam is moving to rein in enrollment at Union County’s rapidly growing online virtual public school after students at the privately operated academy performed poorly on state achievement scores last year, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Haslam’s bill (SB157) caps student enrollment at the Tennessee Virtual Academy at 5,000. The school accepts students from across the state and now has 3,200 K-8 students after an initial enrollment of 1,800 in the 2011-12 academic year.
The academy is run by the for-profit company K12 Inc. under contract with Union County public schools. That came after a heavy lobbying blitz by company lobbyists who persuaded the Republican-controlled General Assembly to let for-profit companies operate online schools under contract with public school systems.
K12 Inc., which has come under fire on its operations in some states, now faces blow back in Tennessee after results of the academy’s first-year results in the 2011-12 academic year were released last summer.
The school narrowly averted falling into the lowest 10 percent of schools on student performance. Only 16.4 percent of students score as proficient or advance on state tests. Students did better in reading with 39.3 percent of them rated proficient or better.
…Haslam’s legislation would apply to the Tennessee Virtual Academy and any other online schools that come down the path. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who is carrying the administration’s package of bills, said Tuesday he had not been fully briefed on the measure.
Huffman spokeswoman Kelli Gauthier said in an email, “This bill is meant to enhance the accountability for virtual schools, and to base their future growth on demonstrated performance.
“This is not about K12; this is a matter of learning from the first year of implementation of the Virtual Schools Act and making improvements with a focus on student achievement,” she said.
The bill restricts new operators of online schools to no more than 1,500 students. After students demonstrate they are indeed learning through state achievement tests, they can enroll no more than 5,000. That cap also applies to K12 Inc.’s operation, Gauthier confirmed.
Another provision in the bill restricts a county online school’s ability to accept students from outside the local district.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The head of the state’s largest teachers’ union said she expects her board to take an official position against proposals that would allow teachers to carry guns.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/VHKrcd) reports the measures are among proposals state lawmakers are considering this legislative session in the wake of last month’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
A gunman fatally shot 26 people — most of them children — inside the school Dec. 14. He also killed his mother and himself.
Several Tennessee lawmakers have drafted legislation that would encourage school districts to place at least one armed police officer in every school and would allow teachers who have undergone special training to bring their personal handguns into schools.
However, Tennessee Education Association president Gera Summerford said a “teacher’s job is to nurture and teach,” not to stop an intruder.
“Their main concern is to keep children safe and do what is best for the children, and that is different from being on the front line as a guard,” she said.
The gun issue is on the agenda for a TEA meeting in two weeks, according to The Tennessean.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union on Tuesday called for Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais to resign after reports that include the congressman once urged a mistress to terminate a pregnancy.
Chairman Lloyd Daugherty said in a release on Tuesday that DesJarlais’ actions have “reached a level of hypocrisy that is simply untenable.”
“He has repudiated the beliefs of the Fourth Congressional District, rejected the long held core values of the state of Tennessee, shamed the Republican Party and accomplished something incredibly difficult,” Daugherty said. “He has embarrassed the United States Congress.”
DesJarlais, who opposes abortion rights, has argued he was using strong language to try to pressure the woman to admit she was not pregnant. The woman was also under DesJarlais’ care as a Jasper physician.
The chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union said Monday he’s talking with other Republican-leaning groups and exploring whether to demand U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., resign from Congress.
Reports the Chattanooga TFP: The move comes as the 4th Congressional District lawmaker and candidate finds himself under growing fire following revelations that as a physician 12 years ago he pressed a former patient with whom he had been involved sexually to get an abortion.
Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty in an interview declined to identify the other organizations with which he has been speaking. He said his goal is building a “coalition” in support of the congressman’s ouster.
“We’re very upset that he’s broken his medical creed and the trust of the citizens of his district,” said Daugherty, who two years ago endorsed then-U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., whom DesJarlais beat in an upset.
The group usually backs Republicans.
In a statement Monday night, the Jasper lawmaker said his Democratic opponent, Eric Stewart, “supports Barack Obama for president and thinks Obamacare is great for Tennessee.”
“I’ll stand on my conservative record of lower taxes, reduced deficits, and repealing Obamacare. Mr. Daugherty supported Lincoln Davis last election cycle, so Eric Stewart would be a consistent choice for him — but not for true conservatives.”