Good for the United Auto Workers. The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the flagrant interference in its recent election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. The workers voted narrowly against affiliating with the UAW.
Whether the UAW complaint will result in the NLRB calling a new election, or whether another election would lead to a UAW victory, is impossible to gauge. Erik Loomis of the University of Rhode Island and the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog thinks both are long shots, but agrees that the NLRB complaint is the right thing to do.
The details in the UAW filing are damning. The Tennessee Republicans’ conduct was nothing sort of shameful. As some 1,500 VW workers were preparing to vote, Gov. Bill Haslam, an assortment of GOP state regulators and Sen. Bob Corker staged a “coordinated and widely-publicized campaign” to interfere with the union representation vote, which under the law must take place “free of coercion, intimidation, threats, and interference.”
The Republicans threatened that the state of Tennessee would withdraw incentives for Volkswagen if the UAW was voted in. Since the incentives are integral to VW’s operation and expansion of the plant, these threats packed a wallop. We reported on the GOP’s contemptible campaign here.
Especially shameful was the behavior of Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, who flew down from Washington, spending taxpayer funds, to deliver an almost certainly fabricated claim that VW executives had “assured” him that the company would open a new SUV manufacturing line at the plant -- if the workers turned the UAW down. A local VW executive disputed that.
In this case, the employer did not oppose the union vote. In fact, Volkswagen wished to establish a labor-management works council at the plant, which can’t be done unless the workers are represented by a union.
Put it all together, and it raises an important question about Tennessee’s Republican officeholders: Who do they represent? Not the workers, certainly; if they really cared about their welfare, they would have stayed out of the election. If they really cared, they wouldn’t be threatening to withhold financial incentives from a business that employs 1,500 of their constituents, for any reason. But they didn’t care.