By Julian Pecquet - 02/27/14 02:07 PM EST
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) denied tainting a union election while acknowledging Thursday that the United Auto Workers (UAW), which has filed a complaint, sees him as “Public Enemy No. 1."
The union has accused the former Chattanooga mayor of interfering with a union election the UAW lost at Volkswagen's Tennessee plant by suggesting the German company could kill a planned SUV production line if workers voted to unionize.
Corker stood by his statement during a briefing with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor, saying he only meant to convey that the expansion would happen, even if voters didn't vote to organize.
“I was assured that if the workers voted against the UAW, [Volkswagen] was still going to choose Chattanooga,” he said. “And I was very aware that inside the plant … there were efforts [by the UAW] to scare the employees that if they did not vote for the UAW, the plant would not come there."
Corker said the bad blood dates back to what he called the five “Corker principles” that spelled out how the $25 billion auto bailout of 2008 could be spent.
“There's no doubt there's some pent up anger toward me and my office as a result of some of the discipline that had to be put in place,” Corker said. “I probably am Public Enemy No. 1 for the UAW.”
He said he talked to Volkswagen's leadership in Germany as well as outside consultants tasked with the site selection process and was concerned that, if state incentives disappeared as a result of a vote to unionize, the “line would ultimately go to Mexico.”
“I'm not anti-union,” Corker said, pointing to his past as a construction company owner working with unionized workers. “I've just seen the job destruction the UAW has been involved in.”