Republican leaders in the Tennessee legislature called Volkswagen “Un-American” Monday morning for the way the German automaker is welcoming a union organizing effort. VW’s 1,550 workers in Chattanooga will vote through a secret ballot later this week.
Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixon), whose district includes the plant, said “it has been widely reported that Volkswagen has promoted a campaign and has been unfair, unbalanced, and quite frankly Un-American in the traditions of American labor campaigns”.
He said workers “need to know all of the potential consequences”, suggesting a plant where workers are represented by the United Auto Workers would have trouble getting any more money from of state coffers:
I believe any additional incentives from the citizens of the state of Tennessee for expansion or otherwise will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate.
VW has already received an estimated $500 million in taxpayer help since moving to Tennessee. The company is also shopping around for a place to build a new SUV for the American market.
In a mostly-empty auditorium at the Chattanooga State Office Building, Watson was flanked by the city’s GOP lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.
“We’re glad they’re here,” McCormick said of VW. “But that is not a green light to help force a union into the workplace. That was not part of the deal.”
Protestors Use Irony
“Hear, hear,” mocked a few protesters on the front row, dressed in hats and pearls, carrying signs saying “tax the 99%.”
“We know the power should remain at the top where it belongs,” one said in a high-brow accent. “Workers cannot be trusted with this power.”
Republican lawmakers argue that it will be difficult to attract more auto suppliers to the state with a heavier UAW presence. And they suggest VW should give union opponents a chance to lay out the case directly to workers. Presently, Volkswagen is only allowing UAW officials in the plant.
Democrats take their turn at press conferences in Chattanooga and Nashville Monday afternoon. They’re asking that VW workers be allowed to decide on union representation for themselves.
If successful, VW could be the first foreign-owned auto plant in the South to be organized by the UAW.