Did Senator Bob Corker Sabotage VW Union Vote in Tennessee?

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Bob Corker

Source: Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας / Flickr

Prior to the vote on whether to unionize a Volkswagen (VLKAY.PK) plant in Chattanooga, the state of Tennessee was the site of a proxy war between non-union groups and the supporters of organized labor. Many considered the vote a historic event in the U.S. South, where unions have not held sway in automotive plants. Tennesee Rebpublican Senator Bob Corker was perhaps the most vocal and aggressive in his campaign to defeat the union in Chattanooga. In fact, questionable statements by Senator Corker may have influenced the outcome that went against the United Auto Workers (UAW).

Workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant voted against UAW membership by a vote of 712 to 625 in the vote that ended February 14. The 87-vote margin was a shift from a vote which the UAW collected in late 2013. In that tally, UAW representatives showed more than half the workers at the Chattanooga plant supported unionization. Leadership at the Volkswagen plant said the company was not against a union presence in Chattanooga. VW, now the second-biggest automaker in the world after passing GM (NYSE:GM), has written its success story with union labor around the world. But Republican lawmakers from Tennessee were very much opposed to the idea of the UAW in Chattanooga.

Senator Corker flooded the media with warnings of how UAW organizing “will have an effect on our community’s ability…to recruit businesses,” The Washington Post reported February 13. However, Corker was only getting warmed up. The day before the final votes were counted at the plant, Corker told Reuters he was “very certain that if the UAW is voted down” then Volkswagen would announce new investment in Chattanooga’s plant within weeks. Frank Fischer, Chief executive of the VW Chattanooga plant, told Reuters there was simply “no connection” between the vote and the decision to build another vehicle in Tennessee.

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