published Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Gov. Bill Haslam not attending NLRB hearing on VW union vote in Chattanooga

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam doesn't plan to be in Chattanooga on Monday for a scheduled National Labor Relations Board hearing to which he and 23 others were subpoenaed by the United Auto Workers.

The governor made the comment to media Tuesday as the General Assembly was trying to wind down its legislative session for the year.

"The governor was asked if he had cleared his schedule to be in Chattanooga next week, and he said he doesn't plan to be there at this time," said Haslam spokesman Laura Herzog in an email.

Asked if the state was communicating with the NLRB, she said that "It is a legal matter and we're currently reviewing our options."

The UAW couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Haslam is the first of the two dozen Republican politicians and anti-union activists subpoenaed to say he doesn't plan to attend the hearing that's slated to start Monday at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, State Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and nearly the entire Hamilton County legislative delegation, among others, were subpoenaed by the union. 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 is seeking a revote in February's union election at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, alleging interference by third-party groups and Tennessee politicians.

The NLRB has a provision in its rules for those who do not intend to comply with a subpoena. Within five days after the date of service, a person may petition in writing to revoke the subpoena, according to the agency. The petition to revoke a subpoena must be be filed with the federal agency's regional director who then refers the petition to the administrative law judge or the board for ruling.

"The administrative law judge or the Board, as the case may be, shall revoke the subpoena if in its opinion the evidence whose production is required does not relate to any matter under investigation...," the NLRB rules say.

Dan Gilmore, a Chattanooga labor lawyer, said it's unusual to have people subpoenaed who aren't formally part of a case. He noted that the UAW filed the appeal, VW didn't object, and the NLRB has approved two intervenor groups of VW employees represented by the anti-UAW group Southern Momentum and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

"It's unusual that there are people subpoenaed who are not representatives of the parties," Gilmore said.

He said there's the potential the Monday hearing could be delayed, or the NLRB may go forward and get as far as it can.

"It's a very fluid situation and very unusual," Gilmore said.

Some of those subpoenaed have complained that the UAW's subpoenas amount to "a fishing expedition."

Maury Nicely, an attorney who represents the Southern Momentum, said the hearing is on "a limited issue" and he expected challenges to the subpoenas.

He said the aim of the subpoenas were to "harass and embarrass and inconvenience people."

However, UAW President Bob King said earlier in a statement that the NLRB investigation is to determine the truth regarding third-party interference.

"The NLRB's rules call for the use of subpoenas as part of the truth-seeking exercise," he said.

The union appealed the worker vote at the plant, which it lost by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. The UAW said that Haslam, Corker, some state legislators and others conducted a coordinated and coercive campaign to deprive workers of an election free of intimidation, threats and interference.

It has cited leaked documents which show that Tennessee economic development officials last year offered nearly $300 million in financial incentives to VW to put a new vehicle line in Chattanooga. The state's offer sheet said the incentives were contingent on VW discussions about a works council at the plant being concluded to the "satisfaction" of the state.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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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