UAW Backs TN Autoworkers Despite Union-Busting Gov, Senator

Thursday, the United Auto Workers (UAW) announced they will open an office and establish a local union in Chattanooga, Tennessee to represent workers at the nearby Volkswagen plant.  In February, workers at the plant rejected UAW representation in a close 712-626 vote after a tumultuous union-busting campaign by Tennessee Republicans, including Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker.

Ahead of a Thursday press conference, NewsChannel5 reported on the development:

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel confirmed the essential elements of NewsChannel 5′s report Thursday morning to The Tennessean.

“We will be announcing a local, and we would fully expect that Volkswagen would deal with this local union if it represents a substantial portion of its employees,” Casteel said. “It’s dependent on the employees and what they want to do.”

Under the terms of the agreement explained to NewsChannel 5 Investigates, no VW worker would be required to join the newly formed Local 42. Volkswagen would, however, work with the union toward creating a German-style works council to give employees a role in running the plant.

The union’s decision comes at a time when Volkswagen is negotiating a deal with the state of Tennessee that would bring production of a second vehicle to the Chattanooga plant.  It has been reported that the state is willing to offer over $300 million in incentives, something union backers viewed as a negotiating chip to keep the UAW out of Tennessee.  According to a late March report from NewsChannel5:

NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained a summary from last August for what the Haslam administration called “Project Trinity.”

Marked confidential, it offers Volkswagen incentives of some $300 million — in exchange for 1,350 full-time jobs at a new SUV facility.

The catch?

“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.”

Turner’s response: “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.’”

Those worries have been assuaged with the formation of Local 42 which, according to UAW communications materials, “fits in with Volkswagen’s philosophy of co-determination” and puts the Chattanooga plant’s workers “on equal footing with other Volkswagen plants around the world. ”

Video of a Thursday press conference announcing Local 42 can be viewed below.

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