The No. 2 leader of the United Auto Workers vowed tonight that the union will stay in Chattanooga and continue its organizing efforts at the Volkswagen plant while government regulators decide if a new election should be ordered for VW employees to reconsider their earlier rejection of the union.
Dennis Williams, the secretary-treasurer for the UAW who is expected to take over leadership of the Detroit-based union in June, said the UAW is hopeful that the National Labor Relations Board will direct a new election to be conducted for VW workers to decide again whether they want to be represented by the UAW. In voting Feb. 12 to Feb. 14, hourly employees at the VW plant in Chattanooga voted 712-626 against the UAW.
Williams said the vote turned negative against the union after state Legislative leaders warned that Tennessee might not be able to give as much in incentives to VW if the plant were unionized. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he has assurances that a new sports utility vehicle would be added at the plant if workers voted down the union.
Williams said VW workers in Chattanooga "were scared to death" and "in their mind threatened with their jobs" by the outside politician comments.
"This is outrageous," Williams said in an interview with MSNBC. "But we're not going to go away."
Corker bristled at the notion of being called an outsider in the city where he lives and where he serve as city mayor. Volkswagen did not oppose the union, but conservative business groups and some Republican politicians did.
In response to such criticisms of the union, Williams said the NLRB needs to order a new election among the VW workers.
"It's unbelievable that they are interfering with these workers," Williams said.
But the UAW is preparing to fight to win representation at the VW plant.
"We're not going away," Willliams said. "The NLRB needs to limit outside interference in the vote from (Americans for Tax Reform founder) Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers and other conservatives that just want to hold workers back. They don't want a strong Middle Class and they don't want any collective bargaining."
Williams noted that the UAW has nearly 5,000 members already in Tennessee. He chided politicians who took credit for job additions in Spring Hill, where GM is adding 1,800 jobs in a plant represented by the UAW.
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