For U.S. Sen. Bob Corker-who is the former mayor of Chattanooga-the issue of UAW coming to the local Volkswagen plant is a matter of the economic health of his hometown and the state he loves.
“If they see the UAW is building momentum in our state, other companies that are looking are not going to choose Tennessee; they’re just not,” he said.
He said that politicians shouldn’t have any influence on the VW workers’ decision on the issue. But he’s speaking up on this issue because, when leaders brokered the deal for VW to come to Chattanooga, company leaders told him they didn’t want anything to do with the UAW.
Corker was mayor of Chattanooga from 2001 to 2005, and he worked with other area officials to develop Enterprise South, which is now home to Volkswagen.
Much of the negotiation that led to Volkswagen’s decision to come to Chattanooga took place in Corker’s home.
And now he said he thinks that VW officials are going back on their verbal commitment.
And he isn’t speaking out against the UAW because he’s anti-union, he said.
“[Some of the] employees that worked at my company were union [members],” he said. “And I carried a union card as a young man.”
But Corker called the UAW a “destructive force,” and he said the union will damage the city’s ability to attract suppliers and will stifle potential economic growth.
Corker said if leaders need help from a union, they should find another group to work with.
“I wish that people who care about this issue could have been inside the GM plant at Spring Hill on two occasions-the environment that the UAW has created is sad to watch,” he said.
Ron Harr, president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, echoed Corker’s sentiment.
He said chamber leaders have surveyed their membership and that there is “overwhelming” support for the anti-UAW stance.
On Friday, chamber leaders were still working to figure out where the situation actually stood, but two things were certain-they don’t want a UAW presence in town and they insist a private vote is the only way to get a fair decision for workers.
“We are in favor of a European-style works council,” Harr said. “What we are saying is the UAW has no experience participating in that model. They have a long track record that is very different than that.”
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