Leaders of the United Auto Workers union, who claimed to have majority support from Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga last year, said they appear to have lost some of their support this week when Tennessee Republican leaders suggested that the union might limit chances for a plant expansion and make the GOP-controlled Legislature less willing to help the German auto maker expand.
"We started to see some movement when the governor made his comments (saying the union could hurt economic recruitment)," said Dennis Williams, secretary treasurer for the UAW. "Then Sen. (Bob) Corker who said he was not going to get involved came back (to Chatanooga) and had a press conference. We had a feeling that something was happening."
In three days of voting this week, hourly employees at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga voted 712 to 626 not to be represented by the UAW. UAW President Bob King said the 43-vote margin of loss for the union "was very, very difficult" and may have been influenced by political comments this week.
On Monday, Hamilton County's Republican legislative delegation said it would be harder to get approval for incentives for a VW expansion if workers voted to be represented by the UAW
"We're outraged at the outside interference in this election," King said . "Never before in this country have we had a U.S. senator, a governor, and a leader of the Legislature threaten the company with no incentives (for a plant expansion) and threaten workers with a loss of product. It's outrageous."
Gov. Haslam said the presence of the UAW could have hurt the recruitment of automotive suppliers to Tennessee.
"The governor is pleased with the outcome and looks forward to working with the company on future growth in Tennessee," Haslam spokesman Dave Smith said tonight.