NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he doesn't want Volkswagen to recognize the United Auto Workers based upon union authorization cards gathered last year after plant employees narrowly voted in February against UAW representation.
But the governor, who along with fellow Republican politicians has fought the UAW's unionization attempts at VW at virtually every turn, said it's premature to say whether his administration wouldn't offer state incentives to Volkswagen if that were to occur, The Nashville Post reported Tuesday.
"We'll have to wait and see how that plays out," The Nashville Post quoted Haslam saying. "Obviously, we believe in the importance of a vote. We think democracy matters, no matter where you are. There was a vote at the plant and the UAW did not win the vote. We think that should mean something."
The anti-union group Center for Worker Freedom said Monday it believes Volkswagen's top managers are considering sidestepping the election in which workers voted by a 712-646 margin 53 percent against recognizing the union.
The group's head, Matt Patterson, said he heard Volkswagen officials are weighing letting in the union via authorization cards. The UAW has said it garnered a majority of plant workers' signatures on cards as it prepared the legal groundwork leading to the unionization election last year.
Haslam said he doesn't know whether Volkswagen intends to rely on the card checks or not.
The state last year put a $300 million incentive offer on the table to entice VW into adding a second line of production for a new sports utility vehicle at its Chattanooga plant. But those were later withdrawn. The Haslam administration said they "expired" after VW officials did not move with the union election coming up.
Asked if any move by VW to recognize the UAW via the union card checks would jeopardize future state offers of incentives, Haslam said, "It's too early to get there.
"There's a lot of conjecture about what may or may not be happening down there," Haslam said. "I think the main thing for us, like we've said, is we're ready to sit down with Volkswagen and say whoever can come speak for the company, let's sit down and have these conversations about hopefully expanding in Chattanooga."
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in February that Volkswagen would announce plans to expand the Chattanooga plant if workers rejected the UAW. But VW officials have declined to discuss where they will build the new SUV or how state incentives might be a factor. Chattanooga is competing with a site in Puebla Mexico to make the new North American-targeted vehicle.
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