Officials with the United Auto Workers are crying foul for what they say was Republican meddling in a union vote held earlier this month at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and state House Speaker Beth Harwell were among the Republican officeholders to speak out against unionization of the plant.
GOP leaders said the union would limit the chances for the plant to expand its production lines and make the GOP-controlled General Assembly less willing to offer financial incentives to the German automaker.
Hourly employees at the VW assembly plant in Chattanooga voted 712 to 626 against the union. UAW President Bob King said the loss for the union “was very, very difficult” and may have been influenced by comments from Republican leaders.
“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,” King said. “It’s outrageous.”
As voting began on the union contract, Corker told Reuters he had been assured that VW would announce plans to build its new midsize SUV at the Chattanooga plant if workers there reject the UAW. The senator refused to say who gave him that information.
A labor specialist interviewed by The (Nashville) Tennesseean said Corker may have crossed a line. Angela Cornell, who directs the Labor Law Clinic at the Cornell University Law School, said Corker’s comments might be construed as “coercive” and could provide grounds for the UAW to appeal the results of the election. The UAW apparently agreed, appealing Friday to the National Labor Relations Board.
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