published Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Labor challenges VW over lack of 'local hire'

Audio clip

George Jones

PDF: Volunteers for local hire paid advertisement

A group with organized labor ties asks today in a newspaper advertisement if Tennessee politicians are "selling out" the state's work force because they didn't insist that Volkswagen hire local contractors and workers to build its plant here.

But VW officials said local hiring and spending continue to increase as the plant takes shape, noting that it already has contracted for more than $500 million with local and Tennessee firms.

Hans-Herbert Jagla, executive vice president of human resources for VW's Chattanooga operations, said the automaker is "walking the talk."

The ad by Volunteers for Local Hire said politicians who negotiated with VW failed to include a "local hire" mandate to ensure Tennessee contractors and workers perform all the plant construction.

The ad also noted that almost $600 million worth of government incentives were provided to the company in the effort to attract VW.

"If Tennessee is going to do economic development, why don't they have some requirements for using state money and using local contractors and workers on these projects?" asked George Jones, a spokesman for the group.

And the ad said eyewitness accounts from the VW assembly plant job site show there are many out-of-state contractors and workers, including foreign workers, building the Chattanooga factory.

The automaker said firms in Tennessee and within a 150-mile radius of Chattanooga are receiving more than $340 million for plant construction and $178.5 million for components to build the midsized sedan slated for the factory.

In addition, when hiring the plant's 1,200-member production work force, preference is being given to qualified Tennessee residents in the Hamilton County region, VW officials said.

Mr. Jones said Volunteers for Local Hire is "a local community-based organization" with a lot of union membership. The AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department also is involved in the group, he said, but he added that the issue isn't just a union one.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in a statement that he is excited about the impact that Volkswagen and its suppliers will have on the community and region for decades to come.

But he had less-favorable things to say about Volunteer for Local Hire's ad.

"Based on my work in Washington, this is exactly what I've come to expect from a group organized and funded by the D.C. division of the AFL-CIO," he said.

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said the Chattanooga area has a highly skilled, well-qualified building trade work force.

"From the beginning of this great Tennessee investment, my hope was that our regional contractors and workers would be given first consideration at the Volkswagen plant," he said.

County Mayor Claude Ramsey said he remains committed to providing as many local jobs as possible, not only at VW but at all local growing businesses.

April Eidson of the group Hire Here said it supports efforts to encourage using local people for local work, though it's not working with Volunteers for Local Hire.

"Hire Here believes strongly that this is not the time to be attacking our local and state officials, but to be working with them," she said.

Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, said the AFL-CIO is fussing about a contract while ignoring real-world benefits that state and local leaders secured for Chattanoogans and Tennesseans.

"At a time when business is tough and many people are unemployed, Chattanooga and Tennessee have won $500 million in Volkswagen contracts so far," he said. "Detroit is struggling, but Chattanooga is on the rise thanks to a proven economic development strategy."

Richard Beeland, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, declined comment, saying the issues in the ad already had been addressed.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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TrailerParkStud said...

If I were a big company looking to move into this area, I'd certainly pay close attention to how Chattanooga handles this. We've won a huge contract with VW but that doesn't seem to be enough. Apparently the labor "leaders" involved in this haven't taken a good look at Detroit. I was a union member for 30 plus years and while they do serve a purpose, they also need to try to work with a company instead of going into attack mode. Let 'em take a trip to Motown and see what the UAW has done for those folks up there!

December 8, 2009 at 6:45 a.m.
sideviews said...

Just look at Dalton, Georgia and the carpet industry. The unions never got a single foothold in that industry and factory workers in Dalton agreed to work for wages far below the U.S. manufacturing average. Workers came to Dalton from throughout the world. Where's Dalton today? It has the highest unemployment rate of any metropoitan city in Tennesee, Georgia or Alabama and has lost nearly 10 percent of its workforce over the past two years. There hasn't been a major new industry unionized in the Chattanooga area in more than three decades and yet metro Chattanooga has still lost more than 12,000 jobs in the past couple of years. Getting rid of the unions as has largely been done in the private sector in Chattanooga isn't a cure all for business. Labor unions are hardly one of the biggest problems facing American industry today.

December 8, 2009 at 7:03 a.m.
KWVeteran said...

Labor unions are very much like Obama and the other liberals and are in fact inseparable.

December 8, 2009 at 8:45 a.m.
whatsthefuss said...

I think this is the tip of the iceberg. You are dealing with a German company. They feel they do everything better than everyone, and in some cases they do. When they bought Chrysler they didn't. Daimler Chrysler was a huge failure and the Chrysler brand continues to struggle. Having experienced German management, I have found that they like to hire their own. Perhaps they are more comfortable that way. The local area must realize there is an abundance of auto part manufacturing in this region at the moment so seeing a huge amount of new producers in the area I find doubtful. No more Saturn, Nissan and Toyota sales down relates to current suppliers having the ability to absorb VW part production on a large scale. Many of these suppliers had expanded to accomadate the ever growing American market here in the south until the bottom fell out. I hope I am wrong but common sense tells me that existing infrastructure can produce cheaper than building new. As to the unions, the Detroits of this country are a thing of the past. With the Asian population about to exceed China, there is little hope labor wages and benifits will increase any time soon. The taxpayers did a very nice thing for VW. When you saw Alabama bow out for VW it should have been a sign that VW struck a very good deal in Tennessee.

December 8, 2009 at 9:53 a.m.
rolando said...

Unions would rather shut down manufacturers completely and move the jobs overseas -- or destroy them as they did in Detroit -- then allow a better performing non-union shop to exist. What they did to Detroit, Spring Hill, GM, Chrysler, etc they will do to VW in Chattanooga if we let them.

Now is the time to outlaw counter-productive, wage-gouging, union-controlled closed shops that provide and promote cronyism, truancy, poor quality work, etc.

If you need a local example of exactly what unions do to lower quality performance, look no further than our local public schools. No one who can afford a private school sends their kids to a union-controlled and run public one.

Call or write your representatives in Nashville.

December 8, 2009 at 10:38 a.m.

I second Rolando's statement regarding present day unions. The situation in Georgia with the carpet industry mirrors companies across America today, non-unionized or unionized. It also sheds light on giving preferential hiring treatment to immigrants, because employers pay them less than US citizens and get away with mistreating the workers.

After watching Union activity for 40 years in 2-3 countries, it's pretty obvious that they have become far richer at the upper echelons, far greedier, more aggressive and mafia-like than the Mafia, and have pushed jobs out of the country because of excessive demands while causing poorer productivity of many workers.

Witnessing the SEIU and other Union thugs with major access to the WH these days, it is evident their "new" agenda is akin to the Peoples Worker Party and the Communist "Progressive" Party's tactics that were propagated in the 1930's. Americans need to be informed that the same Party still exists today and is very active in all spheres of society. They need to watch and listen to SEIU's Andy Stern's comments regarding changing the "System" worldwide. He said recently, "If we can't change them with the power of persuasion, we'll do it with the persuasion of Power." Same ole, same ole. His thugs were those who tried to prevent voters from voting in Philly's last election. And the WH 'folks' refused to prosecute the law-breakers.

December 8, 2009 at 11:09 a.m.
INJURED said...

AS SOMEONE WHO WORK NISSAN FOR FIVE YEARS AND WAS INJURED ON THE JOB.ANY ONE WHO GOES TO WORK AT ANY CAR PLANT IN TN.IS FOOL. INJURED ON THE ABOUT TO LOSE EVERTHING.SO BOB CORKER COME AND TELL ME HOW GOOD CAR PLANT JOBS ARE.PS.WORKER COMPENSATION IS A JOKE:::::::

December 8, 2009 at 11:18 a.m.
larryortega said...

I'm not sure the overall effect of having non-local workers here isn't beneficial. They eat at local restaurants, rent and buy housing from local owners, etc. If you do an analysis, I'm not sure the influx of capital isn't about even.

And the unions are not the boogeymen that everyone makes them out to be. They protect employee rights, represent the employees in negotiations with management and provide checks on abuse. What's wrong with that?

December 8, 2009 at 11:42 a.m.
exmiddleclass said...

Of course Bob Corker would pop off about the AFL-CIO. He doesn't want the working class to get ahead like he and his family has.

The facts are that any of us, who ever had a paid vacation, sick leave, medical insurance, a raise, or the right to fair treatment by corporate America, is because my father, and a lot of other fathers were willing to take on companies, years ago, and fight for fair wages, and other benefits. Had it not been for these unions, corp America would be working us all for low wages, and long hours, and no benefits. And in fact, that is where people like Bob Corker would like to take us back to. The rich and powerful have all the money, and all the perks, and none of the worries of the average American. It's all about greed. It is not enough that the rich have most of the money. They want it all.

I just read an article in this paper about up and coming people who might be our next politicians. One worked for the Pilot Corp in Knoxville. He made 2.6 million last year, and paid less then 200,000 in taxes. Do the math.

December 8, 2009 at 4:28 p.m.

Looks like Chicago-style politics is seeping into our mid-size city. Big Labor has already started with million dollar marketing campaigns like Hire Here and now they are on to organizing under the clever name of Volunteers for Local Hire.

December 8, 2009 at 5:49 p.m.
Sailorman said...

"He made 2.6 million last year, and paid less then 200,000 in taxes. Do the math."

So what? Do you take deductions or are you just jealous? If you don't like it, lobby to change the tax laws. Better yet - support the Fair Tax.

December 8, 2009 at 6:33 p.m.
righttowork said...

Here come the Thugs! Thank goodness, the state of Tennessee does not limit freedoms of companies locating to Tennessee and bringing much-needed jobs and income to this state. How dare some community-union organizer think that a corporation should be told who to hire. This is America and we still have freedoms here as much as you and your so called community organizers and unions would like to see otherwise. We no longer need unions as there have been plenty of safety and wage mandates and now unions do nothing but drive up costs of goods, manufacturing expenditures, and cause companies to pack up and move somewhere overseas. This plant and all the people that it hires will be a big boon for Chattanooga and for the state of Tennessee! Thanks but no thanks to your heavy-handed campaign to drive companies from our state!

December 8, 2009 at 8:11 p.m.
rolando said...

I give a standing ovation to Volkswagen and its subsidiaries for choosing Chattanooga as their new home away from home. Thanks to each and every one of you from the top down.

Please don't buckle under to these union toads.

December 8, 2009 at 10:42 p.m.
exmiddleclass said...

Yeah, I take my deductions, and no I am not jealous. There is nothing fair about the tax system, and I do support a fair tax structure. But I can't go out and buy a big boat, or plane, and entertain on it, and write all the cost off as a business expense. Hey sailorman, you got a big boat???

As for what's driving up costs on everything, it's the bonuses, and perks they give the rich man at the top. The unions are a thing of the past, and so are good wages, benefits, retirements, and matching 401k contributions. All of that and more is gone. But have you seen anything you buy get any cheaper?

December 8, 2009 at 11:31 p.m.
Techanooga said...

I was working for a company here in Chattanooga that received tax concessions and other benefits with the proviso that they double their workforce and expand their Chattanooga facility. Some of the jobs were supported by the WIA program which meant that they got large subsidies for training workers for these jobs. They signed the papers, took the subsidies and the tax benefits, and when the economy started to sour they laid off these trained workers making good money and replaced us with no benefit temps. Of course they kept the subsidies and tax breaks. Did Chattanooga protest? No.... These Yankees got a great deal. Now I have gone through most of the hiring process for VW as a multi skilled maintenance worker. I have taken the written test, the skills test, and had a personal interview. Overall I have been pleased with the process except for one thing. My interview was weeks ago and I would have expected a polite letter informing me of my status. Perhaps an email would be in order. Maybe I am just too old for them. I have over 30 years experience in the field and I am close to being homeless. I would work for entry level pay. I am not asking for the world, just a chance. Right now I am one of the 30,000. Will I be one of the 800? I pray that I am. Their are plenty of qualified workers in Chattanooga. Don't forget us.

December 9, 2009 at 12:03 a.m.
rolando said...

"Their are plenty of qualified workers in Chattanooga."

And there's the problem, Techanooga. Some 29,000 won't be hired...someone -- lots of someones -- won't be hired...they can't be.

Question is, does VW hire those like yourself who need work and will work for entry level pay...or does it hire entering Union workers at $20/hr and up thereby raising the cost of their cars? No contest.

With the soon-to-be ObamaCare, health benefits are not an issue. With Social Security, a pension isn't either...nor are any of the other product cost-raising "benefits".

Best of luck in the draw...

December 9, 2009 at 8:13 a.m.
Sailorman said...

exmiddleclass

"But I can't go out and buy a big boat, or plane, and entertain on it, and write all the cost off as a business expense. Hey sailorman, you got a big boat???"

No I don't have a big boat but I don't begrudge those who are smart enough to use the tax system to help them buy one. "Bonuses and perks "they" (whoever "they" are) give the rich man? Instead of whining about it, aspire to become a rich man so you can play. Maybe like me, you're just not smart enough or willing to work hard enough to join the club.

Our current tax system is a travesty. Either use it to your advantage or change it - or better yet change the people who keep rigging it. Diogenes would have a hard time finding his honest man in Washington.

December 9, 2009 at 9:13 a.m.
greenerob said...

Are you all nuts?

There will always be yahoos that want more. You give 5, they want 10. These clowns don't deserve to be listened to.

If you are running a company and there is someone from California that is perfect for the job and someone that is just average from Chattanooga, who would you hire??!!??

If you said the guy from California, then you are wise. If you said the local guy, then I am surprised that you even had the brain capacity to open your internet browser.

December 9, 2009 at 2:18 p.m.
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