NASHVILLE -- Republican Gov. Bill Haslam today continued to speak out against unionization of the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga even as fellow vocal Republican critic, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker says further comment by him before next week's vote isn't appropriate.
Haslam's latest comments on United Auto Workers Union efforts came during a luncheon speech to the Tennessee Press Association today in which he first touted Tennessee's status as a "right to work state" in his speech and later launched into yet more criticism of the union during a question and answer session.
"I’ve been fairly vocal in a way that some people have said why is it your business?" Haslam told editors and publishers attending the TPA's winter meeting in Nashville. "I think it is our business in the state of Tennessee. We have a considerable investment in that plant. The state of Tennessee put a whole lot of money in that plant."
He said "it's also an interest of ours because VW has been coming to us for a while" as the German auto manufacturer decides whether to put new car production in Chattanooga or in Mexico.
Earlier this week, Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, said in a statement that he's holding his tongue on criticizing Volkswagen or UAW efforts to organize the plant until the election is held.
“During the next week and a half, while the decision is in the hands of the employees, I do not think it is appropriate for me to make additional public comment,” he said earlier this week.
Corker has previously said Volkswagen would become a "laughingstock" if it becomes the first foreign-owned auto manufacturer that has a union.
Asked by reporters about Corker's statements on the inappropriateness for him to comment, Haslam reiterated he is worried about the the impact of unionization on state efforts to lure additional auto suppliers and other manufacturers.
"We’re just saying what we’ve always said, that the state has a vested interest in this and I think -- from our viewpoint, from what we’re hearing from other companies, it matters what happens in that vote," he said. "I don’t know that I’m trying to influence" the vote.
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, ...