Quantcast
Connect with us

Obama fires back at Tenn. Sen. Bob Corker as Volkswagen workers end union vote

Published

on

By Richard Cowan and Bernie Woodall

CAMBRIDGE, Md./CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (Reuters) – P resident Barack Obama on Friday waded into a high-stakes union vote at Volkswagen AG’s plant in Tennessee, accusing Republican politicians who oppose unionization of being more concerned about German shareholders than U.S. workers.

Obama’s comments, made at a closed-door meeting of Democratic lawmakers in Maryland, came as the vote to allow union representation at the Chattanooga plant drew to a close.

ADVERTISEMENT

The vote will have wide-reaching implications for the auto industry in the South, where all foreign-owned vehicle assembly plants employ nonunion labor, and for the United Auto Workers union, which could use a victory to reverse a decades-long downward spiral.

The vote has faced fierce resistance from local Republican politicians and national conservative groups who have warned that a UAW victory could hurt economic growth in Tennessee. While voting was under way on Wednesday, Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker said VW could announce new investment in the plant if the UAW lost the secret ballot.

Corker faced immediate accusations of trying to unfairly influence the vote. “Never before have Republicans tried to intervene as they have down here in Tennessee and to threaten workers the way they’ve done,” UAW President Bob King told Reuters.

Corker defended his statement as “true and factual” in an interview with Reuters, despite Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW Chattanooga, saying that there was “no connection” between the vote and the possible investment.

ADVERTISEMENT

Legal experts see a difficult path if either side wants to challenge the vote, though, given broad free speech protection for U.S. Senators, which would make it difficult to involve Corker in a dispute, and, from the anti-union side, management’s friendliness with the UAW.

Obama’s interjection in the war of words on Friday, albeit behind closed doors, underscored how much is at stake in the three-day vote by VW’s 1,550 hourly workers. The vote is due to end at 8:30 p.m. EST (0130 GMT Saturday) and the results could be announced soon after that.

Obama said everyone was in favor of the UAW representing Volkswagen except for local politicians who “are more concerned about German shareholders than American workers,” according to a Democratic aide who attended the meeting with Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

ADVERTISEMENT

The U.S. labor movement has traditionally provided strong support for Obama’s Democratic Party, both financial backing and organizational help at election time. In recent years Republicans have worked to curb union power, especially at state and local levels.

Voting turnout was heaviest on Wednesday, according to local workers, with an estimated 1,000 employees casting ballots. On Friday, when the plant normally is shut down for weekly maintenance, many of the maintenance workers were expected to cast their paper ballots, all of which will be counted individually after the vote closes.

For the UAW, whose U.S. membership has plummeted by 75 percent since 1979, a win could open the door to organizing other foreign-owned auto plants in the U.S. South, the cornerstone of UAW President Bob King’s strategy.

ADVERTISEMENT

A loss could accelerate the decline in membership, now at just under 400,000 from a peak of 1.5 million. It also would reinforce the widely held notion that the UAW cannot make significant inroads in a region that historically has been steadfastly anti-union. Virtually every state in the U.S. South has passed right-to-work legislation that gives workers the choice of joining a union and paying union dues.

For VW, the stakes also are high. The German automaker invested $1 billion in the Chattanooga plant, which began building Passat mid-size sedans in April 2011, after being awarded more than $577 million in state and local incentives.

VW executives have said a new seven-passenger crossover vehicle, due in 2016 and known internally as CrossBlue, could be built at either Chattanooga or Mexico.

ADVERTISEMENT

VW executives also have said that the bulk of the $7 billion that the company is investing in North America over the next four years is targeted for Mexico, including a new $1.3 billion Audi assembly plant.

Over the past week, however, several Republican politicians from Tennessee have added their voices to the growing anti-union chorus, implying that further subsidies to attract additional VW investment in Chattanooga could be threatened by a UAW victory.

Prodded by IG Metall, the powerful German union that has several representatives on VW’s supervisory board, the company has maintained what it calls a “neutral” stance toward the union, although the company agreed to permit UAW representatives into the plant to address workers.

“The relationship between the UAW and IG Metall has been critical in our organizing efforts,” the UAW’s King said, adding that the two were already working together at a second southern U.S. plant, in Alabama, owned by Daimler AG.

ADVERTISEMENT

(Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit and Andreas Cremer in Berlin; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Ross Colvin and Ken Wills)

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump has figured out how to get taxpayers to renovate one of his golf courses: MSNBC panel

Published

on

President Donald Trump has figured out how to have taxpayers pay to renovate his Trump National Doral Miami golf course, according to an analysis by MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle.

"Before setting himself on fire on Ukraine yesterday, Mick Mulvaney came into the White House briefing room to break to the nation the fact the that the Trump Doral golf resort turns out to be -- in his estimation, organically, just sitting there -- the best possible place to have a G-7 Summit of world leaders," MSNBC's Brian Williams reported. "That was provision number one. There’s no better place that we can find. Number two was, the president will not profit from said G-7."

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Bill Maher reveals plan to ‘bribe’ Trump with one billion dollars — for him to leave office

Published

on

The Constitution has two mechanisms to remove President Donald Trump from office prior to his term ending on January 20, 2021: impeachment and the 25th Amendment.

HBO "Real Time" host Bill Maher noted that Trump could also choose to resign.

Maher waved around a $1 million check that he said he would give to Trump to quit.

He said he also knew 1,000 people who would do the same -- which would land Trump over $1 billion.

Maher said even poor people would pawn their wedding rings to add to the pot.

Watch:

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump can’t fire Mulvaney because nobody else wants to be his chief of staff: report

Published

on

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will likely stay on at the White House despite his public confession of a quid pro quo in the Ukraine scandal at the center of the impeachment inquiry, The New York Times reported Friday.

"But Mr. Mulvaney’s job has been anything but normal since the news conference on Thursday at which he seemingly undermined the Trump administration’s strategy for avoiding impeachment by acknowledging that Mr. Trump had sought a quid pro quo for providing Ukraine with American aid," the newspaper reported. "In the chaotic aftermath, the president’s Republican allies are questioning Mr. Mulvaney’s savvy and intelligence even as the Trump campaign is defiantly turning one of his lines from the news conference into a T-shirt."

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1 and go ad-free.
close-image