Hamilton County Mayor Coppinger calls for Volkswagen to reject UAW

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger presents his fiscal year 2020 budget to the county commission at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Mayor Coppinger's budget calls for a tax increase for additional funding for schools.
photo Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger presents his fiscal year 2020 budget during a budget workshop at Hamilton County's McDaniel Building on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Coppinger is requesting additional funding for public safety and schools in his fiscal year 2020 budget proposal.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger today called on Volkswagen workers to reject the United Auto Workers in an election at the Chattanooga plant that runs Wednesday through Friday.

"We have a good thing going here in Hamilton County," Coppinger said. "Our unemployment rate is below the national average and average weekly wages in our county surpass most all neighboring counties. And Volkswagen is a major reason for our success."

Volkswagen-UAW tensions

So, he said, the question facing the workers voting this week is simple: "do we really want to risk it all?"

The county mayor said the coming decision about whether to align with the UAW is "a big one and one I do not envy."

"I know that no workplace is perfect," he said. "But I also believe that the best way for workers to have their voices heard is to be able to communicate directly with their supervisors – a right that would be taken away if the UAW is allowed inside the plant."

However, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini said that the choice Mayor Coppinger, Gov. [Bill] Lee and others want workers at the Volkswagen plant to make is a false one.

"This vote is not 'labor vs. management.' This vote is about building a positive, partner relationship between the two, ensuring that workers have a seat at the table, and holding management accountability," she said.

"Volkswagen has an invaluable role in the Chattanooga community," Mancini said. "But equally as important is ensuring that the jobs they create pay well and that people who work hard can afford their mortgage or rent, medicine, and a safe and dignified retirement. Unions, like the UAW, make sure workers and their families have a strong collective voice, a sense of economic security, and a reason to feel good about the future."