The former president of manufacturing at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant on Saturday said that adding a union at the factory "will not be good" for attracting a new sport utility vehicle.
"I don't know that for a fact, but it's just economics," said Don Jackson, who worked at the Chattanooga plant for four years before retiring in 2012.
Jackson, speaking to about 65 people at an anti-United Auto Workers meeting, said the union would increase costs at the Chattanooga factory by 20 percent to 30 percent. He said that an announcement about adding production of an SUV would already have been made if VW had met its cost targets in Chattanooga.
"VW wants to make a profit," he said.
Jackson, who was one of more than a half dozen speakers who addressed the group, said that suppliers won't want to locate near the plant as well, which would drive up transportation costs related to assembling the SUV.
"Suppliers won't come if there's a union environment," he said.
Mike Herron, UAW Chairman of Local 1853 in Spring Hill, Tenn., said there has been no difficulty getting suppliers for the unionized General Motors plant there.
"Most suppliers want major automotive contracts to supply parts and components. They are run by business people who understand the financial benefits of doing business, whether its customers are unionized or not," he said in an email.
A three-day vote on whether to recognize the UAW at the plant is slated for Wednesday through Friday.
VW has said that Chattanooga is the frontrunner to produce a new seven-seat SUV, but the city is competing with company facilities in Mexico. The Chattanooga factory currently makes only the Passat sedan.
The UAW has said that it will work with VW to set up a works council labor board at the plant and establish a new standard for labor-management relations in the U.S. VW has indicated it wants to work with the union to craft the first works council at a U.S. auto plant.
See more on the UAW Decision in Sunday's Times Free Press.