An attorney for a Chattanooga anti-union group said Thursday he expects challenges to emerge to some of the two dozen United Auto Workers' subpoenas issued this week in its appeal of the Volkswagen plant's union election.
"You can count on it that there will be challenges to the scope of these subpoenas," said Maury Nicely of Southern Momentum.
Nicely and Southern Momentum each were named to appear at a planned April 21 appeal hearing before the National Labor Relations Board in Chattanooga.
The UAW also subpoenaed Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, State Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and nearly the entire Hamilton County legislative delegation among others. The UAW wants them to bring documents and communications related to the union, VW and government incentives from Jan. 1 to the present.
The UAW said it hopes all parties who receive subpoenas will fully comply by providing the NLRB with the requested documents and with their testimony.
Union President Bob King said in a statement the NLRB investigation is to determine the truth concerning the third-party interference in the February election at the plant.
"The NLRB's rules call for the use of subpoenas as part of this truth-seeking exercise," he said.
But, Nicely said the hearing date may be in jeopardy.
He noted the UAW already has appealed an earlier NLRB decision to let Southern Momentum and some VW employees represented by the National Right to Work Foundation to intervene in the case.
"I'll be impressed and surprised if it all can be resolved," Nicely said. "That's not say it will be delayed, but it will take a lot to get these issues resolved by April 21."
Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said he's willing to take part in the NLRB process and that he earlier spoke "what I thought were my assumptions of the lay of the land as I saw it."
Watson had said in the week of the February vote that any additional incentives from the state for a VW expansion will have "a very tough time passing the Tennessee Senate" should the union be accepted at the plant.
"I do not see members of the Senate having a positive view of Volkswagen because of the manner in which this campaign has been conducted," he said at a press conference at the time, noting that some workers had complained VW and the UAW were colluding to steer the election result to the union.
House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said that she didn't say much during the period in question related to the topic.
"So I don't know why I'm included in all this. But that's fine," she said.
The union, in its appeal of the vote in which workers rejected the UAW organizing effort 712 to 626, cited what it said was interference in the election by political figures. It said that Haslam, Harwell, Watson and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga and others conducted a coordinated and coercive campaign to deprive workers of an election free of intimidation, threats and interference.
"The state officials' campaign included, without limitation, publicly announced and widely disseminated threats... that state-financed tax and other incentives and financial benefits" would be withheld from Volkswagen if the union was recognized, the UAW said.
The union also alleged that U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., escalated the threats when he said that he'd been assured by VW that if the workers voted against the UAW, they would see a new product line at Chattanooga.
Leaked documents last week showed that Tennessee economic development officials offered nearly $300 million in financial incentives to VW last year to produce a new sport utility vehicle in Chattanooga.
VW has said Chattanooga is the front-runner to produce the new vehicle, which could bring about 1,000 new jobs to the plant. The automaker has said it would like the plant to form a works council, a panel that oversees day-to-day issues such as training and safety. But, according to VW, a union is needed under U.S. labor law to set up such as panel.
Walter Orechwa of Norcross, Ga.-based Projections Inc., who was subpoenaed, said that his company produced three videos for Southern Momentum to assist "in educating the VW employees about the UAW."
"I think I was subpoenaed because the UAW would like to silence those that work to present employees with all the facts," he said. Orechwa said he doesn't expect to fight the subpoena.
Nicely said the aim of the UAW subpoenas is to "harass and embarrass and inconvenience people" and aren't seriously designed to find information for the hearing.
"To me, it reeks of desperation," he said.
Nicely said a petition to revoke the subpoena will have to be filed with the NLRB within five working days.
"I'm going to speculate you're going to see some," he said.
Southern Momentum raised more than $100,000 primarily from Chattanooga area businesses and individuals to mount a campaign against the UAW in Chattanooga, Nicely said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.
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 ...
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...