WASHINGTON — The United Auto Workers on Friday challenged last week’s close vote by workers at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee that rejected the UAW’s bid to represent them.
In an appeal filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the union asserted that “interference by politicians and outside special interest groups” had swayed the election.
In particular, the appeal took aim at Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who suggested that a “yes” vote could persuade VW to take jobs elsewhere while a “no” vote would not only help keep auto jobs in Tennessee, but might also persuade Volkswagen to expand its presence in the state.
The UAW bid was defeated in a 712-626 vote, even though the German company generally is considered labor-friendly.
“It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that would grow jobs in Tennessee,” UAW President Bob King said.
The union faced a midnight Friday deadline for filing the action with the NLRB. The rejection by Volkswagen workers dealt a harsh setback to the union, especially since Volkswagen did not oppose the unionization drive.
“Sen. Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen,” the UAW’s filing asserted. “The clear message of the campaign was that voting for the union would result in stagnation for the Chattanooga plant, with no new product, no job security, and withholding of state support for its expansion.”
Corker has defended his high-profile role in arguing against unionization at the VW plant, saying he was happy to join in the fray.
“I have no idea what effect we may or may not have had,” Corker said after the vote. “But I think I would have forever felt tremendous remorse … if I had not re-engaged and made sure that people understand other arguments that needed to be put forth.”
The vote against the UAW was a setback to the union’s goal of expanding into foreign-owned auto plants in the U.S., particularly those in the South.
The union included various news accounts of remarks by Corker and other Tennessee Republican officials in its filing. It called upon the NLRB to “set aside the election and order that a new election be held.”