South Pittsburg, Cleveland, Ducktown and Etowah get grants for downtown upgrades and more business news

State awards $1 million for downtown upgrades

Cleveland, Tennessee, South Pittsburg, Ducktown and Etowah are among 16 Tennessee communities receiving Downtown Improvement Grants from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as part of the Tennessee Main Street program.

"Downtown districts and main streets are central to Tennessee's economic growth and community development," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in an announcement of the new grants. "I congratulate each grant recipient for receiving funds to support local revitalization, bolster our economy and increase tourism across the state."

A total of $1 million in Rural Economic Opportunity funds is being awarded in amounts up to $100,000 per community to improve structures in Tennessee Downtowns and Main Street communities. Grants were awarded to organizations that illustrated the need for improvements and the ability to execute an effective design plan for building facades, wayfinding signage, gateways and streetscapes.

Ducktown is getting $70,000 in grants, South Pittsburg and Etowah are getting $50,0000 each from the sate and Cleveland will get $20,000.

"We are excited to see the work that will be done as each city and town invests in facade improvements and other projects to enhance their downtown districts, which are the focal point for so many of Tennessee's communities." Brooxie Carlton, assistant commissioner of rural development, said in a statement Tuesday.

To be eligible for a Downtown Improvement Grant, communities had to submit applications and be designated as a Tennessee Downtown or Tennessee Main Street community.

UAW union election set at LG Energy battery plant

An election to unionize the first General Motors Co. and LG Energy Solution battery cell manufacturing plant is scheduled for Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, according to a National Labor Relations Board filing.

The United Auto Workers in October filed to have a union election on behalf of about 900 workers at the joint-venture Ultium Cells LLC plant in Warren, Ohio. The filing, made with the Cleveland office of the National Labor Relations Board, came after a back-and-forth on whether Ultium would recognize the union through a card check process instead of an election.

UAW President Ray Curry at the time said while most Ultium workers have signed cards to authorize UAW representation. Ultium, GM's joint-venture battery company with LG, declined to recognize the UAW as the employees' union.

Ultium Cells spokesperson Brooke Waid previously said the company "believes the right to a personal and private vote is important."

Since Ultium is a joint-venture company owned by GM and LG, workers are not included in the national UAW contract with GM, which expires next year. Organizing the Ultium battery plants and other Detroit Three battery operations is crucial for the UAW's future in the electric vehicle transition.

The Ultium plant in Warren is the first of four plants to start making battery cells for GM EVs. Two other plants, in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and in Delta Township near Lansing, are under construction. GM and LG are looking at New Carlisle, Indiana, as the location for their fourth battery plant in the U.S.

Court rejects suit by 737 passengers

Federal appeals court has rejected a class-action lawsuit against Boeing and Southwest Airlines that accused the companies of putting 737 Max passengers in harm's way and covering up known dangers to the flying public.

The case was one of the most significant consumer actions over the 737 Max crisis after the crashes of two jets in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people and set off a worldwide investigation into the airworthiness of the Boeing plane.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2019 after the 737 Max was grounded as details began to emerge that Boeing had long known about issues with the software system known as MCAS that was blamed for steering the planes into the ground. The lawsuit claimed that Dallas-based Southwest, Boeing's largest 737 Max customer, was aware of the problems and hid the dangers from the public.

The plaintiffs argued that consumers were duped into flying on unsafe airplanes.

"The actual prices of the tickets that were purchased as a result of the misrepresentations by Southwest and Boeing about the safety of the MAX 8 and MAX Series Aircraft were significantly higher than the value of those tickets, which for many, if not most, passengers was zero," the suit argued.

Trump social media merger faces delay

Investors in the blank-check company that plans to merge with former President Donald Trump's social media company have agreed to extend the deadline for closing the deal by nine months.

But the deal could lose its allure. The centerpiece of its company's offering is Truth Social, a right-wing alternative to Twitter -- and Twitter has now reinstated Trump's account, giving him the option of returning.

Patrick Orlando, the main backer and CEO of Digital World Acquisition Corp., the so-called special purpose acquisition company, announced that shareholders had approved the extension during an online meeting Tuesday.

The shareholder extension keeps alive the potential for Trump Media & Technology Group to tap into the $300 million that Digital World raised from investors after its public listing some 14 months ago.

The extra time to complete the deal still doesn't mean it is a certainty.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating potentially improper communications between representatives of the companies before Digital World's listing last October and the unusual trading in Digital World securities before the merger announcement. The Securities and Exchange Commission is running its own investigation. Their findings could torpedo the merger.

Meatpacking cleaning firm accused of underage work

A Wisconsin company that cleans hundreds of meatpacking plants nationwide is defending itself against allegations that it employed more than two dozen minors working overnight shifts cleaning massive saws, grinding machines and other dangerous processing equipment at three slaughterhouses.

Labor Department officials said in court documents that they believe Packers Sanitation Services Inc. might be employing underage workers at other plants but investigators have only just starting reviewing thousands of pages of employee records at plants besides the ones in Nebraska and Minnesota where they confirmed teenagers were working through the middle of the night sanitizing slaughterhouses before heading back to high school in the morning.

A federal judge in Lincoln, Nebraska, already issued a temporary order prohibiting the company from employing minors and interfering in the Labor Department's investigation. The company will argue at a court hearing next month that there's no reason for a judge to make that order permanent because PSSI officials say they are cooperating with the investigation and they already prohibit hiring anyone younger than 18.

The company says it employs some 17,000 people working at more than 700 locations nationwide, making it one of the largest firms out there that clean food processing plants.