U.S Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the UAW's challenge of last month's vote against unionization of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga is "an unprecedented assault on free speech."
In an opinion piece published today by the Wall Street Journal, Corker said the workers "made their voices heard" by voting 712-626 against the UAW during voting at the VW plant from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14. Corker said his critical comments about the UAW and his assertion that the auto maker would expand the Chattanooga plant if the union was defeated were designed to rebut differing union claims made before the vote.
"It was critical that workers knew the potential long-term economic consequences of this decision on the state," Corker said. "If the UAW came into our community, attracting suppliers and other prospective companies would be far more difficult."
Corker said he returned to Chattanooga to speak out during the workers' election on Feb. 12 because he thought "there was a misconception about the future of a second Volkswagen line coming to Chattanooga" only if the union were approved. Corker stressed that the SUV line would come if the union was rejected and promised that Volkswagen would announce that decision in a few weeks.
"Unfortunately, the UAW has chosen to ignore the employees' decision and has filed objections with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that elected officials like me should not be allowed to make public comments expressing our opinion and sharing information with our constituents," Corker said. "It is telling that the UAW complaint does not mention President Obama's public statement urging the employees to vote for the union."
UAW President Bob King has called Corker's criticism of the UAW and his involvement in the campaign "outrageous" and in violation of the spirit of neutrality agreed to in advance of the vote by the union and Volkswagen.
Corker urged the NLRB to dismiss the UAW's petition even though the union still has until Friday to submit more evidence to the labor board.
"In every similar case where a company has remained neutral in a union-election drive, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have voiced their opinions," Corker said. "The NLRB has ruled repeatedly that public officials have the right to make statements taking sides in a union election, and that those statements do not justify overturning the outcome of that election."