The crusade by anti-union forces in Tennessee, including the state’s governor, is now as much a fight with Volkswagen management as with the United Auto Workers union, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Not only are Republican legislators accusing Volkswagen of backing the UAW, but some of their leaders on Monday threatened to withhold tax incentives for future expansion of the 3-year-old assembly plant in Chattanooga, if workers vote later this week to join the UAW, the newspaper reports.
About 1,500 workers began voting Wednesday in balloting that will continue through Friday in an election that the National Labor Relations Board is conducting.
Volkswagen has tried to remain neutral, but the recent actions by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; and prominent anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist led the automaker’s management to issue a statement over the weekend that “outside political groups won’t divert us from the work at hand: innovating, creating jobs, growing, and producing great automobiles,” the Free Press reported.
The company plans to expand either in Chattanooga or at a Mexican plant to produce a midsize SUV. Overall, Volkswagen intends to invest about $7 billion in North America in the next five years to achieve a goal of selling more than 1 million Volkswagen and Audi vehicles in the U.S. by 2018.
“It has been widely reported that Volkswagen has promoted a campaign that has been unfair, unbalanced and, quite frankly, un-American in the traditions of American labor campaigns,” state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, said in a statement sent to the Detroit Free Press. If the workers choose to be represented by the UAW, he said, he believes new incentives “will have a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate.”
The State of Tennessee is reported to have put up around $600 million in incentives to bring VW to Chattanooga, but now may be having buyer’s remorse and may be willing to see further expansion go elsewhere.
Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, is reported to have threatened Volkswagen with a withholding of federal incentives over its refusal to resist unionization.
Anti-union forces see the Volkswagen vote as a firewall of sorts for stopping expansion of unionization to auto plants in other Southern states, including Mississippi, where the UAW is seeking to unionize workers at Nissan’s 10-year-old Canton plant.
Accordingly, the Mississippi Legislature is gearing up to slow the Nissan effort through curbs on union activities.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said anti-union bills that cleared the Senate Thursday will uphold Mississippi’s standing as a right-to-work state attractive to manufacturers seeking to avoid workforces represented through collective bargaining.
The bills passed prohibit an organization from coercing employees into card check agreements, prevent picketing to block a business’ entrance and protect an employer’s ability to review criminal backgrounds of applicants, though criminal background checks are already a standard pre-employment practice in Mississippi and all other states.
“These bills will protect Mississippi from a trend seen in other parts of the country where organized labor groups are using unfair negotiating tactics to bypass state laws and hurt job creation,” he said.
The bills, introduced by Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, were sent to the House for consideration.
Here is a rundown:
>>>SB 2473 prohibits an organization, corporation or individual from damaging a businesses’ property and products or threatening to damage, harass or coerce a business or individual into surrendering their rights under federal labor law. It also prohibits forcing employees into neutrality agreements, card check agreements and collective bargaining recognition.
>>>SB 2653 prevents an organized effort to use picketing or objects, such as vehicle, to block a business’ sidewalk, entrance or exit, as well as private residences, as part of an effort in a labor dispute.
>>>SB 2689 ensures employers may continue to inquire about criminal history in background checks so employers can maintain a safe workplace.Read the full Detroit Free Press story.