Tag Archives: Sen. Bob Corker

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?

All Disasters Are Local

One of issues that have come out of west Tennessee since the flooding is that the issue did not get as much media attention as, let’s say, Nashville. Of course Nashville didn’t get very much attention either until they started raising hell, which was fantastic. Nashville has a strong online voice and used it spectacularly earlier this month where, in essence, many people went from utilizing existing online media tools to become instant first responders and strong citizen journalists of getting the word out regarding the sudden needs of it’s citizens who were in crisis. I’ve talked about this before. From someone such as myself who lives and works online, this was pretty spectacular to watch.

But we return to the simple fact that not everyone is online.

This is not to say the Shelby and rural Tennesseans (speaking of the flood exclusively) haven’t done their part it’s just been different.  Former democratic candidate Adrienne Pakis Gillon has had her Facebook page loaded with clean-up efforts in Millington and has used that site to keep a running log of work in Millington. Her latest update is requesting more volunteers to help with houses that are still at risk. The online infrastructure is just different and a bit smaller.

Millington mayor Richard Hodges, in an article in today’s Memphis Daily News, is making a case about how his community is negotiating with

West Tennessee Corn Crop, 2008

federal agencies to help the city with clean-up and rebuilding efforts. In the story, he cites his role on the Charter Commission has taken a back seat to more heady and important issues such as the flood. And the story focuses on the fact that even in places outside the larger, more densely populated areas that 86 percent of the corn crop which had already been already been planted just in the couple of weeks before. Much of this is lost.

The story has some disturbing statistics. Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander opined in Shelby County earlier this week.

The toll on small businesses outside the agriculture sector also will become evident in the weeks and months ahead.

“Things look differently over time. But you still have businesses where their life’s work has been destroyed,” Corker said. “We’ve passed through some places where … you know they’ve had setbacks. They didn’t have insurance.”

Alexander cited government estimates that 30 percent of small businesses damaged in floods like the ones this month never reopen.

Yes, there is a bit of politics going on in that article as that’s what politicians do but there is also some wide ranging information on the bigger picture of what west Tennesseans will be facing in the coming months.

The thing that we are looking at is that we were already in a recession and it was bad enough. With the flooding on top of an already unstable economic situation is something that we are going to have to feel our way around, because it is unprecedented.

Morning Coffee – Nashville Blogger And Memphis Sinkhole Edition

It's like a political Superhero convention

One thing that you feisty little scamps may not know is that while Herr Ross is in Memphis, I am in the state’s capitol this week. For those of you who might be intrigued, there was an A.C. Kleinheider sighting last night. No, NO, not Mayor A C Wharton, but the political blogger. He seemed to be doing very well and we were glad to see our favorite rebel-rouser on the streets of Nashville. There was also JR Lind who graced us with his bow-tied awesomeness, but who had to leave early to work on a scoop.

Political bloggers and writers, there work is never done.

On a side note, politicians really should be nervous when bloggers and members of the  Twitterverse get together because, yeah, we talked about you.

No seriously, we did. All night long. Not only your politics, you pesky elected officials, but also your haircuts. I know.

You can join the Memphis Sinkhole on Facebook. No, seriously.

Nashville Image Credit- Terry Quillen