Appealing Volkswagen vote won’t be easy for UAW – USA TODAY
DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union faces a high legal hurdle in appealing its defeat at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant.
Citing public statements by Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and other Tennessee politicians, the UAW asked the National Labor Relations Board to set aside the results and conduct a new election.
Workers at the 3-year-old factory in Chattanooga voted 712-626 against UAW representation at the plant.
“Senator Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen Chattanooga,” the union said in a 58-page document filed Friday. “It is a more than adequate basis for sustaining these objections.”
However, Gary Kotz, a partner with the Detroit firm of Butzel Long that often represents companies, said this appeal faces an uphill battle.
“They have not accused Volkswagen of doing anything wrong,” Klotz said. “In fact, Volkswagen disavowed Sen. Corker’s comment.”
Normally, a union must prove that those who were seeking to influence the election were doing the bidding of the company for this type of challenge to succeed, Klotz said.
The NLRB regional office in Atlanta will conduct a hearing before making a decision. Either the UAW or Volkswagen can appeal that decision to the NLRB office in Washington, D.C.
The appeal accuses Corker and others of creating “a general atmosphere of fear or reprisal rendering a free election impossible.”
“The nature of the threat — the diminishment of job security if the workers vote for the union — is, like the threat of a plant closing, among the most serious that can occur,” the UAW said in its appeal.
Corker urged workers to reject the union and suggested Volkswagen would not build a new SUV in Chattanooga if workers voted for the UAW. Volkswagen management said the union vote would not affect a decision to build the SUV in Chattanooga or another VW factory in Puebla, Mexico.
Gov. Bill Haslam said accepting the UAW would discourage other companies from moving into the state. The leader of the state Senate threatened to withhold tax incentives to support new investment at a UAW-affiliated Volkswagen.
“It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility,” said UAW President Bob King. “It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product.”
Corker — who was mayor of Chattanooga before his election to the Senate in 2006 — responded less than two hours later.
“Unfortunately, I have to assume that today’s action may slow down Volkswagen’s final discussions on the new SUV line,” Corker said in a statement. “The UAW is only interested in its own survival and not the interests of the great employees at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen facility nor the company for which they work.”