Tennessee Volkswagen workers voting on unionizing

Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., are voting this week on the possibility of joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

The vote, which is scheduled to conclude on Friday, tests the recent trend of foreign automakers locating plants in Southern states to avoid labor issues common at Midwest-based American companies. 

The push to unionize the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant has drawn the attention of Tennessee politicians like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who urged autoworkers this week to vote against joining the UAW.

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“I’ve 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,” Corker said in a statement. 

UAW leaders in Tennessee offered a starkly different perspective, arguing that a vote to unionize would provide more job security for Volkswagen workers in the state.

"It's unfortunate that Bob Corker has been swayed by special interests from outside Tennessee to flip-flop on his position on what's best for Chattanooga's working families," UAW Region 8 Director Gary Casteel said in a statement.

"While outside interests and other politicians have been trying to impact the results of this vote — which would give Volkswagen workers a voice to make VW stronger in safety, job security and efficiency, and improve the quality of life for everyone in Chattanooga — we believe Corker was right in his original statement that this vote should be left to the workers,” Casteel continued. 

When two of the three major U.S. automakers that are based in Detroit were bailed out by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations in 2008 and 2009, labor contracts were frequently cited as a major contributor to the conditions that created the necessity for the controversial bailouts.

Southern states like Tennessee have used their right-to-work status to target foreign automakers looking to open U.S. facilities in recent years with much success.