By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – In a significant about-face, the UAW has decided to drop its challenge against the results of the unionization vote at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant.

The union, which lost the vote by a narrow 712 to 626 margin, had challenged the results, saying that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker had improperly influenced the outcome. Now, the UAW says it will shift its focus to helping the plant win the competition to build a new mid-size SUV.

“Things happen, you have to deal with them,” said UAW President Bob King. “So, our strategy is really to look forward, let’s get the new product into Chatanooga. We’ll continue to talk to workers. I’m very, very confident that we will represent the workers at some point in the future.”

King said that outdated federal laws made it difficult for the union to win a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board.

“The most they could do is order a new election,” he said. “They couldn’t even really control the behavior of outside forces if they did order a new election.”

King wouldn’t say whether Volkswagen might decide to accept the union based on the number of workers–a majority–who signed cards supporting the UAW. The union will need to wait another year before it can schedule another vote. But, King says the organizing drive at Volkswagen is far from over, and that UAW representatives will remain in Chattanooga.

“I feel very confident that we will re-establish that majority, and represent the workers there.”

Senator Corker, who had said this was freedom-of-speech issue, said he felt the UAW never had a case to begin with.

“This 11th hour reversal by the UAW affirms what we have said all along — that their objection was nothing more than a sideshow to draw attention away from their stinging loss in Chattanooga,” said Senator Bob Corker.

Corker did agree that a second election would be a difficult win for the union.

“Many have felt the UAW never really wanted another election in the near term because they knew they would lose by an even larger margin, based on widespread knowledge of the UAW’s problematic track record throughout the country, which the workers at Volkswagen have been able to see firsthand over recent months,” he said. “Fortunately, the majority of workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant realized they were only dollar signs to the UAW’s self-survival.”

The union had charged that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam had used state incentives as leverage in the vote.

“The UAW wants to help create quality jobs and build world-class products for American consumers,” said UAW Region 8 director Gary Casteel. “With this in mind, we urge Gov. Haslam to immediately extend the incentives that previously were offered to Volkswagen for this new SUV line, and do so unconditionally.”

This decision to withdraw the appeal is seen as a possible setback to the union’s efforts to organize a foreign owned plant in the south. King said they would keep pushing, but admitted that this defeat for the union emboldens its opponents.

“I’m very concerned it will embolden outside parties to interfere with workers rights to choose representation.”

Democrats have promised to investigate the impact of outside influences. King says the union will assist those efforts to draw attention to this issue.

King’s term as UAW President ends in June. Organizing a foreign owned plant was a major goal, that King now admits will not be met. He admits, it is a disappointment.

“Of course, sure. But it isn’t about me personally. It’s about what’s the best we can do for our membership.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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