published Friday, April 18th, 2014

Tennessee seeks to quash UAW subpoenas; SUV decision said to be soon

Volkswagen plant tile
Volkswagen plant tile

Tennessee's attorney general on Thursday sought to revoke subpoenas for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials who were served earlier by the United Auto Workers for the union's appeal hearing next week.

Also, Volkswagen's top official in America said the automaker could announce where it will make a new sport-utility vehicle within the next several months, and Chattanooga officials remain upbeat about the city landing the production.

Late Thursday, state Attorney General Robert Cooper said the subpoenas are overly broad, unduly burdensome, and seek information that is not relevant to the National Labor Relations Board hearing. Cooper's filing also seeks to delay the hearing, which is slated for Monday in Chattanooga.

The attorney general's petition seeks to quash the subpoenas of Haslam, Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick as well as state Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, aide Will Alexander, and Tres Wittum, Watson's aide.

"The petitioners are high-ranking officials and staff of the State of Tennessee with a duty to advance the interests of the State of Tennessee and to advance and protect the rights of its citizens, including those employed at the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga," the filing said.

The UAW in its appeal has cited interference by third-party groups and Republican politicians in the election in which VW workers rejected the union's organizing attempt by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. It subpoenaed two dozen people.

One recently leaked state document said the state last year offered VW about $300 million in incentives to attract an SUV assembly line with 1,350 new production and headquarters jobs.

The incentives included $207 million in cash and cash equivalents and $93 million in tax credits. Some have alleged that top Tennessee officials, including Haslam, tried to use the incentives to influence the election at VW. Haslam has said the incentives were never tied to an outcome of the UAW vote.

Meanwhile, Ron Harr, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, said on Thursday that he's "very hopeful" about the city's VW plant landing the SUV.

"We can't help but get excited," he said.

Volkswagen of America chief Michael Horn told Dow Jones at the New York Auto Show that the German automaker ought to make a location decision "pretty soon." Horn said that the last of the carmaker's financial calculations are being done.

VW has said Chattanooga is the front-runner for the SUV over company operations in Mexico. But, the move has been complicated by a legal battle involving the UAW.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said last month that VW likely won't finalize bringing a new vehicle to the Chattanooga plant until the election dispute is settled.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-7576318.

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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