Auto union appeals defeat in Tennessee

Citing “extraordinary interference” from politicians, the United Auto Workers (UAW) on Friday asked a federal labor board to toss out last week’s union election vote in Tennessee.

The UAW alleges that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and other politicians interfered in the closely watched vote at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, and is asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to order a new election.

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“It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product. We’re committed to standing with the Volkswagen workers to ensure that their right to have a fair vote without coercion and interference is protected,” UAW President Bob King said.

The union said their appeal filings, also known as objections, “detail a coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign conducted by politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen workers of their federally protected right to join a union.”

An NLRB spokesman indicated that the board will review the UAW’s objections.

The UAW lost the election in a 712-626 vote that was held Feb. 12-14. The defeat was a huge blow to unions’ efforts to organize in the South, where the labor movement is weak and right-to-work laws predominate.

State elected officials, including Gov. Bill Haslam (R), and Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, voiced strong objection to the union organizing at the Tennessee plant. Several state legislators threatened to end tax credits for Volkswagen if the UAW was successful in organizing the plant.

The union's appeal cited several remarks from Corker, including a Feb. 12 statement he made that noted he “had conversations today and based on those am assured that should the workers vote against the UAW, Volkswagen will announce in the coming weeks that it will manufacture its new mid-size SUV here in Chattanooga.”

“We submit that Senator Corker’s statement appears by its timing, if nothing else, to have been part of a coordinated effort along with the above-referenced State officials and anti-union groups to coerce a no vote,” the UAW said in its appeal to the NLRB.

Corker said he was "disappointed" by the UAW’s appeal.

“The workers at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant spoke very clearly last week, so we are disappointed the UAW is ignoring their decision and has filed this objection," Corker said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, I have to assume that today's action may slow down Volkswagen’s final discussions on the new SUV line,” Corker said. “This complaint affirms the point many of us have been making: that the UAW is only interested in its own survival and not the interests of the great employees at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen facility nor the company for which they work.”

— This story was updated at 4:46 p.m.