Tennessee Lawmakers Threatening To Kill Subsidies If UAW Wins VW Plant

TTAC Staff
by TTAC Staff
tennessee lawmakers threatening to kill subsidies if uaw wins vw plant

Should the United Auto Workers win the upcoming election to represent workers at Volkswagen’s Chatanooga, Tenn. plant, the automaker may find itself shunned by state lawmakers as far as further subsidies are concerned.

Volkswagen is seeking a new site this year to build their CrossBlue-based mid-size SUV in 2016, wooing both powers that be in Tennessee and Mexico for subsidies. However, Republicans in the Tennessee state legislature are threatening to back down on $580 million in state and local incentives the government offered to the automaker in 2008.

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and state senator Bo Watson both said VW would have “a very tough time” attracting anymore tax dollars from the coffers should the UAW win representation, and while they were happy to have the automaker in their backyard, it didn’t mean they were ever given a “green light” to force unionization into the plant. They also criticized VW for giving union supporters an unfair advantage against anti-unionization lobbyists, a charge the automaker denied in a statement supporting the workers’ right to be approached by union supporters and opponents prior to the upcoming election.

Furthermore, VW also stated they would have recognized the UAW through a card check in lieu of an election, but insisted on the workers voting for representation to reflect the automaker’s belief that “democracy is an American ideal,” according to vice president of human resources Sebastian Patta.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Governor Bill Haslam warned that the legislature would play a huge role in approving incentives to help fund the project — being too large for the state’s FastTrack incentive program as it is — and that the impact of UAW representation would affect the state’s ability to recruit other companies to the state.

Longtime UAW critic United States Senator Bob Corker originally remained mum on the upcoming vote, but after the union’s regional director Gary Casteel offered his praise of Corker’s statement by prompting other politicians to do the same in respect of the upcoming vote, the former mayor of Chattanooga felt the union was attempting to stifle other voices from commenting on the issue before stating that he would “return home [to] ensure [his] position was clear”: that the UAW would make VW “the laughingstock” of the automotive industry. Casteel fired back, calling Sen. Corker a flip-flopper prone to being swayed by special interests before restating his belief that UAW representation at the plant would improve the quality of life for both workers in the VW plant and everyone in Chattanooga.

Other critics weighed in on the election, such as the group called Southern Momentum, who quoted a factory worker leading the anti-unionization coalition at the plant as saying, “A vote for the UAW is a vote against the expansion of the plant, plain and simple.”

The election will take place from Wednesday to Friday of this week under supervision by the National Labor Relations Board. Around 1,500 workers will be eligible to vote during the three-day period.

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  • Activeaero Activeaero on Feb 12, 2014

    The reason the states lawmakers are so upset is that this isn't simply a matter of worker choice. The UAW is set up in the VW HR offices (which are adorned with huge pro UAW signage) while anti-union voices have to wait by the front gates and grab employees coming and going. VW is very clear that they are pro union here. That stance wasn't clear to Tennessee lawmakers when they helped subsidize the construction of the plant. There is only one narrative the workers are hearing. If you want the SUV, you better bring in the union. There was an article in the Chattanooga Free Press that stated VW and the UAW have already agreed that wages will not be up for negotiation but of course dues paying would start immediately.

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Feb 12, 2014

      "There was an article in the Chattanooga Free Press that stated VW and the UAW have already agreed that wages will not be up for negotiation but of course dues paying would start immediately." Sounds like zero incentive for the workers. Cui bono?

  • Turboprius Turboprius on Feb 12, 2014

    Before I made my commenting account, I remember reading that shocking post about Bertel being kicked out and the "New TTAC" coming along. Though all of us have our beliefs, the article stated that there would be no controversial pieces. Seven months later. Proven wrong.

    • See 3 previous
    • Turboprius Turboprius on Feb 12, 2014

      @Pch101 I think you brought up the point the best. I personally have said my views on unions before, and to prevent another rile-up, I refrained from saying anything about them on this highly heated and commented post. If the article was called "UAW is the Greatest Organization in the World and the Leader Shall Be Worshiped," I'd be upset, and that would be upsetting for most of the other commenting people. This, however, says that the UAW could completely bring down a plant that produces one of America's most popular vehicles. I understand what you, Racer, and VC mean, and I now agree. Thank you.

  • Inside Looking Out You should care. With GM will die America. All signs are there. How about the Arsenal of Democracy? Toyota?
  • DenverMike What else did anyone think, when GM was losing tens of billions a year, year after year?
  • Bill Wade GM says they're killing Android Auto and Apple Carplay. Any company that makes decisions like that is doomed to die.
  • Jeff S I don't believe gm will die but that it will continue to shrink in product and market share and it will probably be acquired by a foreign manufacturer. I doubt gm lacks funds as it did in 2008 and that they have more than enough cash at hand but gm will not expand as it did in the past and the emphasis is more on profitability and cutting costs to the bone. Making gm a more attractive takeover target and cut costs at the expense of more desirable and reliable products. At the time of Farago's article I was in favor of the Government bailout more to save jobs and suppliers but today I would not be in favor of the bailout. My opinions on gm have changed since 2008 and 2009 and now I really don't care if gm survives or not.
  • Kwik_Shift I was a GM fan boy until it ended in 2013 when I traded in my Avalanche to go over to Nissan.