Documents Reveal TN Gov Leveraged Taxpayer Incentives in Fight Against VW Unionization Effort

An investigative report from Nashville’s News 5 shows that Governor Bill Haslam tied the fate of $300 million in promised tax incentives to the outcome of the United Auto Workers (UAW) organizing effort at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. The report also revealed that Sen. Bob Corker had direct email conversations with anti-union organizers which he shared with members of the Haslam Administration.  

The report, written by Phil Williams, shows that Haslam unfairly leveraged government resources against the organizing effort. House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner explained the situation to News 5, saying, “Looks like to me they put a gun to their head and said, ‘Look, this is what we are going to give you if you do it our way and we are going to jerk it away if you don’t.’”

The Haslam Administration refused to cooperate with requests for information but Nashville News 5 persevered, uncovering documents labeled confidential and titled “Project Trinity,” which detailed the plan to grant $300 million in tax incentives in exchange for 1,350 new jobs at a SUV facility. From the uncovered papers:

“The incentives … are subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.”

Haslam, Corker, and other members of the Tennessee GOP denied interfering with the UAW vote, but the wording of Project Trinity appears to be the smoking gun labor activists have been waiting for.  When asked if he believed the Governor lied, Mike Turner answered: “I’m reluctant to call anybody a liar without talking to them. But the proof’s in the pudding.”

UAW organizer Gary Casteel was shown the documents. He says the evidence is clear that the Haslam administration was part of a coordinated anti-union campaign that used hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars as leverage against the union:

I think since this document is public, and I appreciate you bringing it forward, that it’s obvious that the state was threatening or at least intimidating Volkswagen [that], to get the incentives, they had to change their business model,” he said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Casteel, “Is this incentive document a game changer?”

“To me,” he answered, “it puts pressure on the state to do what they should have done in the first place — and that’s give the incentives with no strings attached, just like they would any other company, union or non-union.”

The documents could help the UAW with their National Labor Relations Board complaint which argues outside interference made the voting results unreliable.  

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