Published February 21, 2014
The United Auto Workers union is challenging the results of last weekend’s defeat at a Volkswagen auto plant in Chattanooga, filing an appeal Friday with the National Labor Relations Board.
Workers at the plant voted against having the union represent them in labor negotiations, a devastating blow for the UAW and the U.S. labor movement in general.
The UAW, in a statement released Friday, cited “a firestorm of interference from politicians and special interest groups” as playing a central role in causing workers to vote against the union.
The UAW lost the right to negotiate for the workers by a slim 86 vote margin.
In its complaint, the UAW argues that “a coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign (was) conducted by politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen workers of their federally protected right to join a union.”
According to the complaint, threats were made by elected officials in Tennessee to withhold certain state-financed incentives if workers voted in favor of brining in the UAW.
“It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that would grow jobs in Tennessee,” UAW President Bob King said in the statement.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is specifically named by the UAW as a politician who allegedly interfered with the workers’ right to vote for the union.
The UAW’s appeal states, “Senator Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen.”
Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, was outspoken in his opposition of the union and publicly cheered when the union was defeated. “Needless to say, I am thrilled for the employees at Volkswagen and for our community and its future,” Corker said after the results were announced.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Corker said the workers at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant had spoken "very clearly, so we are disappointed the UAW is ignoring their decision and has filed this objection."
He expressed concern that these actions would slow down Volkswagen's discussions regarding the new SUV line, adding that the complaint "affirms the point many of us have been making: that the UAW is only interested in its own survival."