Haslam: Incentives not tied to Chattanooga UAW vote outcome

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photo Gov. Bill Haslam

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that proposed state financial incentives for Volkswagen to add a new vehicle line at the Chattanooga plant were never tied to an outcome of the United Auto Workers vote at the factory.

Haslam, speaking Tuesday night in Chattanooga, added that the proposed package wasn't used as leverage against workers leading up to the election.

Last year, Volkswagen was offered about $300 million in financial incentives by Tennessee economic development officials to attract the new line to the Chattanooga plant along with 1,200 production jobs, documents show.

The incentives offer, dubbed Project Trinity, was made last August as the UAW was trying to organize plant employees, which led to a February election that the union lost by a worker vote of 712 to 626.

The offer sheet, first reported by Nashville TV station WTVF, said the incentives were contingent on VW discussions about setting up a works council at the plant being concluded to the "satisfaction" of the state. Haslam and other Tennessee Republican politicians have been vocal critics of potential UAW recognition at the plant.

State Rep. Mike Turner, the Democratic caucus chairman, on Tuesday said the incentives looked like strong-arm tactics.

"I think it's bullying, bribing, intimidation, whatever you want to call it," Turner said. "It looks to me like that's what it was."

See more in Wednesday's Times Free Press.