Did the GOP Unfairly Influence the Volkswagen UAW Vote?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 15 2014 11:02 AM

Chattanooga Volkswagen Employees Reject United Auto Workers

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An employee of German giant car maker Volkswagen takes a logo of VW at the company's plant in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Photo by JOCHEN LUEBKE/AFP/Getty Images

After three days of balloting in Tennessee, the final votes came in late last night. Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga voted 712 to 626 not to be represented by the United Auto Workers, in what experts are calling a stinging defeat for organized labor in the South.

Predictably, UAW President Bob King said he was “deeply disappointed” by the final tally, and according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he may consider a challenge to the results due to alleged interference by the state’s Republicans.

“Never before in this country have we seen a U.S. senator, a governor and a leader of the Legislature threaten the company with incentives and threaten workers with a loss of product. That’s outrageous," King said.

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Tenneesee Republicans certainly did turn up the pressure, but whether their actions count as unfair influence remains to be seen. Republican Governor Bill Haslam said unionization would make it harder to recruit automotive suppliers to the state. Taking the issue somewhat further, some state legislators, such as State Senator Bo Watson, warned that subsidies for VW were unlikely to get approval if the plant joined the UAW, a move that could discourage expansion.

And the proverbial cherry on top? Republican Senator Bob Corker, former Chattanooga Mayor, said VW executives told him the company would add a new SUV production line if employees rejected the UAW. VW, who remained neutral during the elections, said the vote would have no bearing on where it would manufacture the SUV.