U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, saying "the whole world is watching," today urged Volkswagen employees to vote against the United Auto Workers in a three-day election that starts Wednesday.
"It's a Detroit-based organization. They're the largest shareholder of General Motors," he said at a news conference. "The key to their survival is to come down and organize plants in the Southeast."
"When UAW organizers look at VW employees they see dues, money in their coffers," he said.
The Tennessee Republican said the UAW discussion already is having a dampening impact on wooing new business to Tennessee.
If the UAW organizes the VW plant, it will hurt the standard of living of people in the state, he said.
"We're concerned about the impact," he said. "Look at Detroit."
But, Gary Casteel, a UAW regional director, said it's "sad that when workers exercise their legal right to form a union some Tennessee politicians are threatening the economic well-being of communities and businesses just because workers want to have a voice in the future of Volkswagen in Chattanooga."
Casteel asked that if VW workers and management can work together on the issue, why are some Tennessee politicians "so eager to derail that process with the help of special interests from outside Tennessee and deny workers the right to participate in decisions that affect their future?"
Corker said he's not against a works council labor board at the plant, and he noted that factory workers could form their own union if they wished.
"VW would be open to employees forming their own union," Corker said.
See more on the UAW Decision in Wednesday's Times Free Press.