Tag Archives: Chattanooga

A Messy Fight In Tennessee Over Volkswagen’s Union Vote


Why are elected officials, big players in Tennessee politics, interfering with the union vote at Volkswagon?

There are some questions about whether or not recent statements, especially from Sen. Bob Corker, are appropriate.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Another labor expert, Harley Shaiken of the University of California-Berkeley, said, “The senator’s comments amount to economic intimidation that undermines the whole nature of union representation elections.”

Shaiken often advises UAW officials.

“If the senator’s statement doesn’t violate the letter of the law, it certainly violates the spirit of the law,” Shaiken said.


Gary Casteel, UAW regional director for a 12-state area that includes Tennessee, said on Wednesday night, “Corker’s statement is in direct contradiction to Volkswagen’s statements.

“They have specifically said that this vote will have no bearing on the decision of where to place the new product.”

In the past, Casteel has said that Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, opened in 2011, needs a second product to survive. It has built the compact Passat sedan since it opened.

The plant has about 1,550 Volkswagen workers eligible to vote in the election, which is supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

Pro- and anti-UAW workers said they were not sure if snowy weather will affect turnout for the vote, which ends on Friday when the plant does not produce cars.

.There seems to be more to this story than what appears, and when Sen. Bo Watson cites that incentives could be pulled by state government, it just gets, what is the word … weirder.

Tennessee Democrats are hitting back and held a press conference earlier this week. (subscription)

House Democrats expressed astonishment Monday that Gov. Bill Haslam and other Tennessee Republicans would threaten to pull economic incentives for Volkswagen if its Chattanooga factory seeks union representation for its workers.

“It’s almost unprecedented in this country,” said Mike Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “This is a very bad precedent to set.”

Turner and other Democratic lawmakers called a press conference Monday to say they were “stunned” that Republicans in government would attempt to interfere with agreements made involving private businesses. They said they feared the move would dissuade future businesses from coming to Tennessee.

I guess my question is why would the GOP pick a very public fight that has caught the attention of the national media with an international company that has brought 1,500 jobs to east Tennessee?

And Autoegocrat has more at Left Wing Cracker.

First of all, company unions were outlawed in the United States in 1935. You might expect a U.S. senator to know that already, but in Corker’s case you would be wrong. Volkswagen might also expect a U.S. lawmaker who is presuming to tell them how to do business in Tennessee would be conversant in the relevant laws and statutes, and they would also be wrong.

Secondly, BMW has done no such thing, for the reason outlined above: it would be illegal. Let me reiterate that Senator Corker told a reporter that a company operating in the United States was conducting its business in violation of the law. When asked about this, Corker responded:

It’s not illegal. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to debate this, because this is a debate for lawyers, but I believe that it’s easier to create a German-style works council without a union.Gee, if only the senator had someone handy who understood the law.

So what the hell is going on that this fight would be so public and messy? Leaders are picking a fight with a huge employer who has brought jobs to this state and it isn’t passing the smell test. What’s really going on?

Haslam terrified of democratic process

Terrified of business and workers working together

Terrified of business and workers working together

As workers at the Chattanooga VW plant prepare to for a vote that would decide whether or not the UAW could represent them in the plant, Gov. Haslam is continuing his chicken little dance about the prospect.

Haslam has been clucking about the potential for a union vote in Chattanooga since September, but VW officials don’t seem nearly as alarmed…and for good reason.

VW has a long history of working with unions rather than in opposition to them. Unions are the norm in Germany. The German “works councils” work together with managers to come up with ways to become more efficient and train workers in that new efficiency.

But for some reason, Gov. Haslam is terrified of the model VW has used all over the world coming to Tennessee.

It will “have some ramifications” and “dampen enthusiasm” Haslam has said. But is there any proof of that? We’re talking about one plant in one city where the company itself is not only NOT resisting the vote, but embracing it! Heck, the only enthusiasm for jobs in the state have been when they’ve involved scads of taxpayers dollars for low pay jobs or trying to give state buildings away.

And why is the Governor inserting himself in the way a business wants to conduct business? I mean, can’t they do what they think is best for them? Why is the Governor using his office to interfere with business?

The whining and crying from the Governor’s office has continued on, unabated since the fall…when charges arose that the Governor offered incentives for VW to reject the vote. Haslam denies these charges, but will not release any information about the discussions.

Still, he’s concern trolling the vote…a democratic vote of the workers at the plant to decide…as they have a right to do, if they will participate.

What makes it even more mystifying is that the vote doesn’t change anything about “right to work” rules in the state or guarantee employment.

Why does the Governor have such a big problem with the democratic process?

Homeless in Chattanooga

Every year, over 3.5 million Americans will find themselves without a home. As startling as that number is, it’s over 3 years old. Certainly, now that the nation is suffering from the worst recession since the beginning of the post WWII era, that number has increased.

Programs to help the homeless are working to expand, though they often find themselves hampered by NIMBY attitudes and a general lack of funding.

In Chattanooga, a program started with the help of Federal money seeks to help the chronic homeless transition to more permanent living conditions. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has the story.

House of All Souls is the vision of Ron Fender, a 55-year-old Gregorian monk of the Brotherhood of St. Gregory. He lived in a Massachusetts monastery a year before coming to Chattanooga in 2002 to work as the Community Kitchen’s outreach case manager.

He’s a big man, tall with dark hair and a round belly dressed in dark pants and white shirt. No white robes or tassels. The only giveaway that he might be a monk is that he lives in poverty in a house with other homeless men by choice.

He said he wanted to provide a permanent home for homeless men that offered the same type of community he experienced in the monastery.

“This is a community of brothers living together and sharing their lives,” said Mr. Fender.

The common bond is that, in some way, all the men have been broken and the house is a place of healing, Mr. Fender said.

— Snip

In the Chattanooga area, about 4,000 people a year experience homelessness, according to The Blueprint to End Chronic Homelessness in the Chattanooga Region in Ten Years, a study conducted by the city.

In his first campaign, Mayor Ron Littlefield ran on a platform that included finding new and more-efficient ways to house the homeless. He proposed a central location for a shelter and for the city’s homeless services department, but it hasn’t been built.

“Do we need shelter? Yes we do, but we never posed building it,” said Richard Beeland, spokesperson for the mayor.

The House of All Souls “is a perfect example” of how government money can be used to provide housing for the homeless.

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. “ ~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

Online Tools for Non-Emergency Problems

Chattarati takes a look as some new tools cities are using to help deal with non-emergency problems.

A few years ago, the city’s 311 model would have been top of the line. But in the age of web 2.0, it’s a little dated.

Early this year the city quietly began focusing on SeeClickFix.com in addition to 311. SeeClickFix is similar to 311. It allows any citizen to report non-emergency issues through an online mapping system. Created by residents (and Yale students) in New Haven, Conn., to help improve communications between the city and its residents, SeeClickFix goes beyond the average call or ticket-based system by including the “me too!” aspects now common with web 2.0 sites. Any issue reported on SeeClickFix is public and can be voted on by anyone else, increasing awareness for residents and officials of significant problems. Photos can be added, comments can be made by both residents and those in charge of solving problems and, best of all, there are no hold times! All this amounts to more visibility of issues, and easier reporting of many problems.

To test the efficacy of SeeClickFix, I took a stroll around Highland Park and took photos of a few of our more common problems, as well as a few weirder ones. I checked back on my reported issues a month later, and here’s what I found.

Amazingly, nearly every issue I reported was fixed. Not only that, but most had been fixed within a week or two. Many of the issues were minor — advertising posted on telephone poles, a dead animal lying near a sidewalk. But there were some more difficult issues too — including an unstable structure that I felt should be condemned.

The City of Memphis has a similar program. To report an issue click here.

Bang Your Head Here

I’m just going to say it. There are some elected, and unelected if last week was any indication with the Walt Baker incident, officials that have no damned clue about economic development and job creation.

If we want Volkswagen and other international companies to come here and bring us the jobs we desperately need, we can’t be flipping them off in public to their faces. I’m a hippie liberal. I hate the military-industrial complex as much as the next person. But people in this state need to eat. They need to work. So, you, as a legislator had better put out the welcome mat.

To pretend like we’re in any position to piss off Volkswagen just shows you have no idea how desperately people in this state need jobs.

The sound that you hear which sounds like a hammer banging on an Air-Stream trailer is my head bashing into my desk this morning.

I have a request. Let’s call our elected officials and ask them questions they should know the answer to. Which is how much money is going into the Free and Reduced Lunch program right now in each school district because I think they might see that does tie into job creation. I also think that going here might show certain xenophobic legislators the unemployment numbers and loss of industry in their counties again.

We live in a global economy. Why can’t some of our elected officials remember that?