Gov. Bill Haslam pleased with VW official's comment on UAW vote

photo Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is shown in this file photo.

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he's "very pleased" that a top Volkswagen labor leader apparently is saying union representation at the company's Chattanooga auto assembly plant shouldn't come without a secret ballot vote.

"I've said all along that if they're going to adopt a union there it should be by a vote and not by card check," Haslam said. "I was very pleased to hear them say last week that if they were going to have [a union] it would have to be by a vote."

The United Auto Workers said it has collected signed union cards from more than half the 2,000 production workers as it seeks to unionize the plant. The UAW wants the company to recognize the union without having a full-fledged secret vote of workers.

Bernd Osterloh, an employee representative on Volkswagen's supervisory board, was quoted last week in The Wall Street Journal as saying the manufacturer backs creating a European-style "works council" to negotiate work site management and conditions.

But the Journal also said that Osterloh "appears to call for a vote on the issue" after he said in a statement that "democracy does not end at the plant gates. This principle is not negotiable."

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The company hasn't announced yet whether it will recognize the union through the card check or force a secret-ballot vote.

But the Journal quoted VW American spokesman Tony Cervone saying the company believes it has good relations with its employees. Cervone said any decision on representation will be made by employees "by a formal vote, if that's necessary."

Haslam and fellow Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., strongly oppose VW recognizing the UAW, saying it would be detrimental to luring other automotive companies to the state.

But the UAW talk apparently didn't discourage South Korean tire-maker Hankook from locating in Tennessee. Hankook announced Monday it will build an $800 million plant that will employ about 1,800 workers. Haslam made his comments about UAW during a ceremony Monday to announce the new plant in Clarksville, Tenn.

Contact Andy Sher at or at 615-255-0550.